The WPIAL will take over Heinz Field all day Friday with four district championships on the line. Like any other year, the games feature a number of marquee teams and players, with at least a few future Panthers competing. The thrill of playing at Heinz Field is a big deal for high school kids, and the day is one of the more exciting sports days on the Pittsburgh calendar. Here is a brief breakdown of the four games. Remember, you can head down to Heinz Field and watch, or take the games in on TV as they are going to be televised by Root Sports Pittsburgh.
Avonworth vs. Clairton 11:00 Root Sports
Players to Watch - Aaron Matthews (Clairton) LaMont Wade (Clairton)
As we know, Clairton has been very kind to Pitt in recent years. The Bears have been one of the most dominant and successful small school programs in the country, and they have given Pitt Tyler Boyd, Terrish Webb, Titus Howard, and Kevin Weatherspoon. The "Killer T's" consisting of Boyd, Webb, and Howard were a part of four straight state championship teams from 2009-2012. The streak snapped last year, but some are believing this group of Clairton Bears has a chance to leave a mark of their own.
Lamont Wade is the star of the show and he is just a sophomore. He already holds a Pitt offer, and 247 Sports calls him the 43rd best sophomore in the country. He is a special player, and will be highly sought after by a lot of big time schools. Wade is a star running back, but defensive back is likely in his future at the college level. He scored six touchdowns last week to put Clairton in this title game. Clairton also has a very talented junior wide receiver, Aaron Matthews. He is the sixth rated junior in Pennsylvania by Rivals, and he also holds a Pitt offer. Many feel Pitt has a good chance to land his services. Behind these two stars, Clairton is hoping to win their sixth WPIAL title in seven years.
As far as Avonworth goes, they have a chance to make this a tough game. They were able to upset the defending state champions North Catholic in the semifinals. Also, Clairton needed overtime to dispatch Neshannock last round, showing they are human. It should be a competitive game at the very least.
Aliquippa vs. South Fayette 5:00
Players to Watch - Brett Brumbaugh (South Fayette) Kaezon Pugh (Aliquippa) Arrington Gipson (Aliquippa) Patrick Anderson (Aliquippa)
South Fayette is the defending state champion and they actually looked poised to do it again. The Lions have the WPIAL's all time leading passer in Brett Brumbaugh. He is committed to Duquesne, but he has FBS kind of talent. South Fayette was not expected to beat Aliquippa last year, but they did. They were expected to get blown out by Imhotep Charter in the state championship, and they turned around and beat them 41-0. A lot can be said for having a good quarterback at the high school level, and Brumbaugh proves that.
Aliquippa will have revenge on their minds. They narrowly lost to South Fayette last season, and they have plenty of pieces still in place to give them a run for their money again. As always, the Quips have multiple division one prospects on the roster. Kaezon Pugh is the star player. He is a junior and holds a Pitt offer. ESPN has him as one of the top 300 juniors in the country, and his recruitment may come down to Pitt and WVU. Patrick Anderson is a senior wide receiver with some MAC offers. Arrington Gipson is a big senior defensive tackle with a few MAC offers himself.
If last year was any indication, this should be a good one. It should be noted that the game will be played at 5:00 p.m., but will be shown on tape delay after the Penguins game.
West Allegheny vs. Central Valley 8:00
Players to Watch - Jordan Whitehead (CV) Andre Koester (WA) Chayse Dillon (WA)
West Allegheny defeated Central Valley last year in this very game for the WPIAL championship. The Indians are one of the WPIAL's most well respected, and successful programs under head coach Bob Palko. As we all know, his son Tyler was the Pitt starting quarterback for three seasons. West A also produced another good Pitt player, Dorin Dickerson. They also seem to find themselves playing for championships, and this year's team is doing it behind the strength of team rather than division one recruits.
Andrew Koester is a good high school QB and will continue his career at Saint Francis University next season. Chayse Dillon is the team's running back and also is a good high school player, but has not generated much division one interest. The Indians have a strong defense as well, and Armond Dellovade is a guy to watch there.
Central Valley is led by the WPIAL's best player, and that player also happens to be committed to Pitt - if you have not heard by now. Jordan Whitehead is an explosive player for the Warriors and has led them to an undefeated record to date. He is a four-star recruit and will be enrolling at Pitt next semester, but this is a great chance to see him perform on a big stage and add to his legacy. Like the AA game, this will also be on tape delay and not shown live.
Pine Richland vs. Central Catholic 2:00 p.m. Root Sports
Players to Watch - John Petrishen (CC) Damar Hamlin (CC) Connor Slomka (PR) Ben DiNucci (PR)
Pine Richland is 12-0, and they already have a victory over Central Catholic to their credit. The Rams are not typically a power, and not have been in this position since Neil Walker of the Pittsburgh Pirates was playing for them. The Rams have a very good team led by senior quarterback, Ben DiNucci. He is committed to Penn, but is having an unreal senior season that is starting to draw interest from FBS teams. They have a division one running back in Connor Slomka, as he is heading to Army next season. Slomka had one of the plays of the year a few weeks ago in the first meeting between these two teams.
Central Catholic is a typical Central Catholic football team. They are big and physical and they have plenty of talent. Pitt is still very much in the running for their star player, Johnny Petrishen. He is a safety at the college level, but does a little bit of everything for this team. The Vikings also have four star junior, Damar Hamlin. He holds offers from Pitt, Penn State, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Michigan. Those are the two stars, but they have a number of very good high school players and maybe some good prospects we don't even know about yet.
This game will be televised live at 2:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon so call off work if you need to - this should be a good one.
Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow@JimHammett