By Adam C. Warner
PIAA Class AAAA Championship
Bethlehem Liberty Hurricanes (14-1) vs. Bethel Park Black Hawks (15-0), Dec. 13 at Hersheypark Stadium: It’s a battle of dominant teams looking for their first ever PIAA state title. Liberty is no stranger to success as they are now making a third finals appearance in the last four years. Liberty loves to run the football, so expect plenty of carries from Brendan Brader, Anthony Gonzales and Daryl Klotz. The unit averages over 250 yards per game. Brader has racked up 1,885 yards and 23 scores, while Gonzales has 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns on the season, so Bethel Park will have more than one standout to contend with. Meanwhile, WPIAL champ Bethel Park is playing in its first PIAA title game in school history. The squad is dynamic on both sides of the ball and will be led by QB Erik Olson (1,800 yards passing and 21 touchdowns), RB Lyle Marsh (1,300 yards rushing and 20 scores) and all-state wideout John Schademan (51 rec. 1100 yards, 15 TDs). Bethel Park features a very balanced offense that can hit you both ways. This one shapes up to go down to the wire as two even teams square off for the championship.
PIAA Class AAA Championship
Archbishop Wood Vikings (12-2) vs. Thomas Jefferson Jaguars (14-1), Dec. 12 at Hersheypark Stadium: It’s a battle of a newcomer against a seasoned squad in the Class AAA title game. This season, the Vikings set a school record for victories with 12 and hope to cap off the season with 13 and a championship. By leaning on its strong rushing attack, Wood averages 320 total yards per game, with 225 coming behind the trio of Sean Cunningham, Sean McCartney and Nick Devine. Cunningham has racked up nearly 1,750 yards plus 26 scores this year on the ground, while McCartney has 12 touchdowns on the year at QB with 1,300 yards passing (and almost an 80 percent completion rate, too). Wood’s defense, led by Scott Atkins, has been lethal, and has allowed just 8.5 ppg. On the other hand, Thomas Jefferson has been in the last six WPIAL title games and has won the last three. On Friday, they will be going for their third PIAA championship. Jefferson is a multi-dimensional team that can run and throw with great success. The unit is headed by standout RB Brian Baldrige, who has nearly 2,200 yards on the ground and 34 touchdowns. QB Tyler Wehner is another weapon and has rushed for 670 yards and 10 scores while passing for 2,500 yards and 30 touchdowns altogther. WR Dan Virgin is another go-to guy and has just over 1,000 yards and 12 scores. Will TJ continue its postseason reign or will the new kid on the block crash the party?
PIAA Class AA Championship
West Catholic Burrs (14-1) vs. Wilmington Greyhounds (14-1), Dec. 13 at Hersheypark Stadium: Two unlikely participants will be battling for the state championship on Saturday in Hershey. West Catholic, a squad new to the PIAA this season, has one of the top offenses in the state and averages 50 points per game. As the highest-scoring Philadelphia Catholic League offense of all-time, West Catholic loves to run the ball and on average, rack up nearly 370 yards per game, including 82 rushing scores. Rob Hollomon (1,800 yards rushing and a PCL record of 41 scores) leads the way for West, while Raymond Maples (1,130 yards, 16 touchdowns) and QB Curtis Drake (1,500 yards rushing, 1,300 passing and 36 total touchdowns) also are impact players. Meanwhile, Wilmington is playing in the PIAA title game for first time since 1988. The squad is coming off an upset win over 13-time WPIAL champ Aliquippa and will hope for the momentum to continue. Wilmington runs a Wing-T offense and relies heavily on its ground attack behind Derrick Burns (1,500 yards and 20 scores) and Sutton Whiting (830 yards and 12 touchdowns). QB Shane Wagner (1,400 yards and 21 touchdowns vs. 2 INTs) should also play a major factor in this one, which shapes up to be a great matchup.
PIAA Class A Championship
Steelton-Highspire Steamrollers (15-0) vs. Clairton Bears (15-0), Dec. 12 at Hersheypark Stadium: It’s a battle of unbeaten teams on Friday night as two dominant squads go head-to-head. Steel-High is currently riding a 24-game winning streak, which is best in the state right now, and will be going for back-to-back state titles. Led by standout running back Jeremiah Young, the Steamrollers' offense averages 35 points per game. Young is the Keystone State’s all-time leading rusher and this season he has racked up 2,730 yards and 30 touchdowns, making it the third straight year he has gone over the 2,000-yard rushing mark. QB Andre Campbell is a dual threat and has over 500 rush yards and nearly 1,000 passing yards and will likely be a force for the Rollers. All the while, Clairton is making its first state finals appearance in school history thanks to a defense that has been downright lethal. The unit has held 14 of 15 opponents to seven points or less, and overall, allow just 3.8 points per game. Additionally, the Bears have shut out eight opponents this year and have allowed just 57 points all season. The Clairton offense is strong as well and average nearly 40 points per game. The group is headed by RB Deontae Howard (1650 yards and 24 TDs) and QB Troy Webb, who is filling in for injured QB Andrew Currington. WR Kevin Weatherspoon is a big-time threat and has 54 rec. for 1,500 yards and 25 scores this year.
To contact editor Adam C. Warner, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.