3A WPIAL Playoff Preview & Predictions
A lot of great talent has come from the 3A Section of football this year including standout defense from the Quips, Ricky Guss and a high-powered Quakers offense, Derry Trojans turnover-frenzy defense, to even Beaver's multiple ways of scoring. Throw that all out the door as the playoffs are upon us. It's all about match-ups now as the WPIAL will be seeding the playoff teams in all sections in just under an hour from now. Seeding and pairings for playoffs last year and this year are solely based upon committee's ranking...no special perks for finishing first in a conference or even finishing undefeated (although that's helpful!). Anyways, let's get on with the preview before the true madness starts at 7 PM. Here's what we know:
The following teams have clinched playoffs from the 3A Conference (Alphabetical):
- Aliquippa Quips
- Beaver Bobcats
- Derry Trojans
- Elizabeth Forward Warriors
- Freeport Yellow Jackets
- Quaker Valley Quakers
- Seton LaSalle Rebels
- South Park Eagles
Aliquippa: The Quips finished the perfect season, 10-0, on a high note via the defense. The Quips averaged a normal 36.4 points on offense, but more importantly only 2.3 points against in the regular, with the lone offensive touchdown all season being against BVC foe Quaker Valley. The Quips are outscoring teams by over 34 points, but have been doing most of the work on defense - the closest game all year came vs. Quaker Valley as they won 22-7. They finished the season beating Central Valley 34-3 followed by Hopewell 54-3, meaning the teams' focus of another WPIAL championship hasn't changed. Aliquippa is big, and I mean big upfront on both sides of the ball. Expect this team to dominant the line of scrimmage and continue to ride the defense to the championship game.
Beaver: The Bobcats finish the season 8-2 on the season, averaging 41.2 points for and 17.7 points against. After blowing out their first two opponents 111-21, the Bobcats were tested with back-to-back weeks against number one and number two ranked teams - Aliquippa and Quaker Valley. In both games the Bobcats struggled to move the ball, and was eventually let down by defensive play. After a 30-10 lost to the Quips and a 45-21 loss to the Quakers (go figure....two Q's), The Bobcats reeled off 6 straight wins with 4 of those wins scoring more than 42 points. Expect Beaver to lean on their offensive scheme to make any way through the playoffs.
Derry: The Trojans finished the season 9-1 with a weird finish in the Interstate conference. The Trojans averaged 38.7 points per game while also averaging the 3A Section's second best points against average of 11.2. The Trojans thrive off of turnovers as the defense had 15 interceptions through just six weeks of the regular season. The Trojans have multiple ways of scoring on offense and have great defensive backs who can cover. The Trojans also have one of the better special teams programs in the 3A. Expect Derry to make noise if they can make plays on defense. The Trojans only loss came in week one where they lost to conference foe Elizabeth Forward in an early game 39-7, so do not read too much into that lost.
Elizabeth Forward: The Warriors finished the season 7-2 with an unfortunate loss to South Park 18-14 in week 8 to cost them the sole-possession title for the Interstate Conference. The Warriors averaged 39.8 points per game and 12.4 points against. The Warriors other loss came from a stingy Central Valley team 42-26 who at the time had a two-man attack who eventually loss their starting quarterback one week later. The Warriors had a bunch of blowouts in between the two losses, with three straight games of 50 or more points. The Warriors should be battle tested since they played three teams playoff bound as well as Central Valley, a good BVC team.
Freeport: The Yellow Jackets are riding on another good year in the Allegheny Conference as they finished 7-2 and averaged a difference of 16 points per game in the scoring column. The Yellow Jackets 2 losses came from number one seed Seton LaSalle in conference as well as most-likely number one ranked Aliquippa Quips 52-0 in a blowout. The Yellow Jackets are a possession type team, utilizing the clock more than the scoreboard. Most critics are saying that of the three conferences, the Allegheny Conference is the weakest. We will find out early as for sure Freeport will have to travel during week one of the playoffs.
Quaker Valley: The Quakers finished the season on a good note after losing to the Quips in week 8, beating the Wolverines convincingly 28-0. Although the scoreboard didn't read it, the game was completely one-sided. The Quakers finished the season 9-1 with the only blemish to the Quips, who they kept at 14 points until the last 6 minutes of the fourth quarter. The Quakers average 39.3 points per game, while only giving up 12.1, the third best defense in scoring in 3A. The Quakers focus one guy - Ricky Guss. Ricky Guss has accounted for more than 60% plus of the Quakers offense, while also doing it through the air and ground. Expect the Quakers to lean on Ricky Guss not only on offense, but more importantly from the linebacker position as Guss is a critical player on defense as well. Looking at the rankings, expect Quaker Valley to be the fourth team to host during the first round of the playoffs and possibly...set up a great 3A BVC match-up in the title game.
Seton LaSalle: The Rebels finished a good season in the Allegheny Conference at 8-1. The Rebels average 30.7 points per game and 17.9 points per game against. The Rebels played considerably closer games than some of the other playoff teams, but may also have played one of the more competitive schedules. The Rebels played Shady Side Academy, a team that missed playoffs by one game, a good Apollo-Ridge team, Freeport, Quaker Valley, and an offensive scoring Keystone Oaks. The only downfall for the Rebels is their finish on the season. The Rebels lost to the Quakers 42-7 and came back in week 9 and was down at halftime to Keystone Oaks before winning the game 24-21 in late fashion. Expect Seton LaSalle to be tested early in the playoffs as the Rebels tend to give up easy points on the board.
South Park: Last but not least, South Park Eagles. South Park finished the season 6-3 and made the playoffs based upon their good conference record of 6-1. The Eagles averaged the same points they gave up as they scored, an equal 200-200 or 22.2 points per game. The Eagles had a tough, very tough, middle season schedule facing 2A most likely number one team Washington who finished 9-0 on the season, followed by Derry, a 3A playoff team, and then finally Aliquippa, another 3A playoff team. Expectations from the Eagles are uncertain beyond those games as the Eagles finished the season with four straight wins, going from not being in the playoffs, to possibly by Gardner points, by way of just actual conference record.
NOTE: Since there are only three conferences in 3A, the fourth host team in the playoffs for the first round is the highest second seeded team in the playoffs among the three number two seeds (Allegheny, Beaver Valley, Interstate).
Below is the W-Zone's rankings of the 3A playoff teams based upon record, play, and overall strength in schedule during the regular season.
- Aliquippa (10-0)
- Quaker Valley (9-1)
- Elizabeth Forward (7-2)
- Seton LaSalle (8-1)
- Beaver (8-2)
- Derry (9-1)
- Freeport (7-2)
- South Park (6-3)
So, based upon the W-Zone's rankings above, here is how the first round would match up:
- #1 Aliquippa vs. #8 South Park
- #4 Seton LaSalle vs. #5 Beaver
- #2 Quaker Valley vs. #7 Freeport
- #3 Elizabeth Forward vs. #6 Derry
From these match-ups, we could have a potential Aliquippa - Beaver match-up followed by a possible Aliquippa - Beaver - Quaker Valley match-up based upon which teams win. If however, the WPIAL decides to do rankings where they have no conferences matched up with one another (This rule has been phased out as teams from the same conference can play each other), then #5 Beaver and #6 would most likely switch respectively in their first round matches.
Well that's it for now, as we now await for the 7 PM deadline to here about the pairings and seeding - you can check that out on WPIAL site as well as the new website MSA Sports aka Trib Live Sports site. We will preview those match-ups as they become available.