Today the Pennsylvania state football championships will kickoff live from HersheyPark Stadium in Hershey, PA. The weekend will feature four games in two days. It will also mark the last time the PIAA will only crown four champions, as the they are expanding to six classes next school year. The weekend features a number of good matchups, and many Pitt targets highlight the games. Here is a quick preview and breakdown of who is who this weekend in Hershey.
Farrell (14-1) vs. Bishop Guilfoyle (15-0) Friday 1:00
No Clairton? Seems weird, but the class A powerhouse got upset in the first round of the state playoffs. Now, District 10 team Farrell will represent the West in this game. The Steelers do not feature any known Division One prospects yet, but this is historically a strong program. Farrell can claim two state championships, both happened in the mid 1990's. They are led by senior quarterback, Alex Myers, who has accounted 19 passing touchdowns and 16 rushing touchdowns. Another key player is junior running back, Braxton Chapamn. Champman appears like he could grow into a Division One offer this Spring, and he is one to watch in the evaluation period.
Bishop Guilfoyle is currently riding a 31-game winning streak, the longest active in the state. The Marauders defeated Clairton last season to claim the school's first state title. Guilfoyle has a junior tight end that Pitt is showing some interest in, named Luke Frederick. The 6'5" tight end prospect caught two touchdowns last week in the state semifinal win over Old Forge. Bishop Guilfoyle's star player is Evan Chadbourn, the 2017 do-everything player. He has 38 rushing touchdowns, nine receiving touchdowns, two passing touchdowns, and nearly 3,000 all purpose yards. Not sure if he will draw interest from Pitt, but he is a good HS talent that may receive some college looks.
Aliquippa (15-0) vs. Southern Columbia (15-0) Saturday 12:00
Southern Columbia is one of the premier programs in Pennsylvania state history. The Tigers have six state titles, and six runners up appearances. The school produced former Panther standout, Henry Hynoski. Usually Southern Columbia competes at the single A level, but they are in AA for this cycle. I am not aware of any college prospects from Southern Columbia, or at least any that Pitt is showing interest in recruiting.
Aliquippa features four-star linebacker Kaezon Pugh, who is committed to Pitt. Pugh is the star player for the Quips and follows a long line of college prospects to pass through the Beaver County school. He leads his team in rushing with 2,185 yards and 34 total touchdowns. He sustained a few injuries last week, but battled back to carry his team to Hershey. Like Southern Columbia, Aliquippa is one of the most storied programs in Pennsylvania. They have two state championships, in 1991 and 2003.
Erie Cathedral Prep (14-1) vs. Imhotep Charter (14-0)
Erie Cathdral Prep has always been a force out of District Ten. The Ramblers won the state championship back in 2012 and 2000. They defeated perennial power, Bishop McDevitt, in order to make it to the state championship last week in a shootout. Usually, Erie Prep is a hotbed for recruiting as well. Pitt has yet to show interest, but sophomore linebacker, Matthew Bauer is one to watch. Baurer holds an offer from Virginia, and could grow into a prospect Pitt will be after in the future.
Imhotep Charter hails from the Philadelphia Public League, and will be the favorite to win this game. Imhotep's roster is littered with Division One talent. They have not been around long as a program, but have been very successful in the Philadelphia area in a short time. The Panthers have seven seniors with division one offers. Naseir Upshur is the top tight end in the country, and he is heading to Florida State. Johncarlo Valentin is a four-star offensive linemen that holds a Pitt offer, but there is not a lot noise in that recruitment for Pitt. Shaka Toney is a Penn State commitment as a linebacker, but Pitt has been trying to stay involved. Pitt also has also been involved with uncommitted defensive end, Andre Mintze. Isheem Young and Justin Johnson highlight a talented sophomore class, neither holds a Pitt offer, but that may change. Needless to say, there are a number of other players from Imhotep that will be playing football on Saturdays.
Pittsburgh Central Catholic (14-1) vs. Parkland (14-1)
Pittsburgh Central Catholic has always been a very important part of Pitt football, but lately it has not. The new staff seems intent on opening that pipeline once again. Senior three-stars Bricen Garner (Safety) and Rashad Wheeler (Defensive Tackle) have already pledged to Pitt. Damar Hamlin is obviously one of Pitt's highest rated targets, and they remain right in the thick of his recruitment. The Vikings also boast two other seniors heading to play Division One football in Ron George and Ronnie Jones. Pitt is also involved with a trio of junior prospects, CJ Thorpe (OL), David Adams (LB), and Kurt Hinish (DT). Aside from their individual talent, Central is a very good football team top to bottom. They are loaded, and will be projected to win this game.
Parkland is a one-time state champion, and that happened back in 2002. They finished as the runner-up back in 2007 to Central Catholic. Out of District 11, Parkland (Allentown) has generally been a strong program through the years. This year's team is quarterbacked by a future Boston College Eagle, De'Vante Cross. His top receiving option is Kenny Yeboah, a Temple recruit. The defense is led by 6'5" defensive end, Noel Brouse, who is pledged to play for Syracuse.
Obviously, the big names to watch here are Kaezon Pugh, Bricen Garner, and Rashad Wheeler since they are currently committed to play for Pitt. Beyond that, Damar Hamlin is Pitt's top rated uncommitted prospect as of right now. Is anyone going to make a commitment in Hershey? Doubtful. This is just a quick recap of who is going up against each other with the state championships on the line.
All the games are broadcast on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) live at the times I have listed. Should be good football, and should help pass the time until the Military Bowl. If I had to pick the games I would say Bishop Guilfoyle, Aliquippa, Imhotep Charter, and Central Catholic. Although, anything can happen at this point.