The pairings for the WPIAL football playoffs will be announced Monday. The Tribune-Review will have brackets and analysis in Tuesday’s edition. Right now, I’d say there’s only one thing we know for certain: Clairton will be the top seed in Class A. Beyond that, there are some clear-cut favorites, but they’re all open for debate. If I were on the WPIAL’s football steering committee, here’s how I would seed the 64 teams:
Chris Harlan’s Class AAAA
No. 1 Central Catholic vs. No. 16 Pine-Richland
No. 2 Mt. Lebanon vs. No. 15 Penn-Trafford
No. 3 McKeesport vs. No. 14 Plum
No. 4 North Hills vs. No. 13 Bethel Park
No. 5 North Allegheny vs. No. 12 Peters Township
No. 6 Woodland Hills vs. No. 11 Norwin
No. 7 Upper St. Clair vs. No. 10 Penn Hills
No. 8 Gateway vs. No. 9 Erie McDowell
Analysis: Mt. Lebanon’s win over USC was powerful, but Central Catholic has been Quad-A’s best team for much of this season. North Allegheny could have been as high as Nos. 1 or 2 before losing to North Hills. By placing the Quad North rivals at 4 and 5, though, they might meet again in the quarterfinals.
Best would-be matchup: Gateway vs. Erie McDowell – One of the WPIAL’s best programs faces welcomes McDowell to the league’s playoffs for the first time. Gateway has speed, and McDowell has size.
Chris Harlan’s Class AAA
No. 1 Montour vs. No. 16 West Mifflin
No. 2 Ringgold vs. No. 15 Highlands
No. 3 Thomas Jefferson vs. No. 14 Central Valley
No. 4 Knoch/Mars winner vs. No. 13 Hollidaysburg
No. 5 Franklin Regional vs. No. 12 Hopewell
No. 6 West Allegheny vs. No. 11 Trinity
No. 7 Knoch/Mars loser vs. No. 10 Greensburg Salem
No. 8 Belle Vernon vs. No. 9 Indiana
Analysis: Both Knoch and Mars have clinched a playoff spot. They’re unbeaten in the conference and will play Saturday to decide the champion. Consecutive losses to Montour and Hopewell dropped West Allegheny a couple spots.
Best would-be matchup: Franklin Regional vs. Hopewell – Rushel Shell would be a tough first-round draw for fifth-seeded Franklin Regional.
Chris Harlan’s Class AA
No. 1 Aliquippa vs. No. 16 East Allegheny
No. 2 South Fayette vs. No. 15 Shady Side Academy
No. 3 Greensburg Central Catholic vs. No. 14 Ellwood City
No. 4 Seton-La Salle vs. No. 13 Freeport
No. 5 Ford City vs. No. 12 Keystone Oaks
No. 6 Beaver Falls vs. No. 11 Mt. Pleasant
No. 7 Jeannette vs. No. 10 Beaver
No. 8 Deer Lakes vs. No. 9 Steel Valley
Analysis: The committee could give Greensburg Central Catholic the top seed, since the Centurions are the defending WPIAL champs. They beat Aliquippa in the 2009 title game. I could see that argument. But Aliquippa has been the best team this season and would be deserving of a No. 1.
Best would-be matchup: Ford City vs. Keystone Oaks – Ford City was unbeaten in the regular season, but some question the strength of that conference (Deer Lakes, Freeport, Shady Side). A win would prove a lot, because there’s no questioning the strength of KO’s schedule (South Fayette, Seton-La Salle, Steel Valley).
Chris Harlan’s Class A
No. 1 Clairton vs. No. 16 Western Beaver
No. 2 Rochester vs. No. 15 Carmichaels
No. 3 Monessen vs. No. 14 North Catholic
No. 4 Avonworth vs. No. 13 Brentwood
No. 5 Springdale vs. No. 12 California
No. 6 Sto-Rox vs. No. 11 Chartiers-Houston
No. 7 Beth-Center vs. No. 10 Cornell
No. 8 Fort Cherry vs. No. 9 Bishop Canevin
Analysis: Seeds No. 1 and 2 were clear-cut. After that, it gets tricky. I gave the edge to Monessen for having an unbeaten conference record. Avonworth, Springdale and Bishop Canevin were tied atop the Eastern Conference standings with one loss apiece.
Best matchup: Beth-Center vs. Cornell – Cornell had only two losses all season: 41-0 to Rochester, and 39-0 to Sto-Rox. Otherwise, the Raiders were outstanding.
Again, the pairings that count will be announced Monday night.
– Chris Harlan (firstname.lastname@example.org)