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Pennsylvania State Championship Primer

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Previewing the Pennsylvania state football championships

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The PIAA state football championships will be held this weekend in Hershey, Pennsylvania. As usual, there are many important recruits that will be participating in the event. The games will be shown live on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) and you have the option to pay for access to watch any of the games of your choice. In a new move this year, the state expanded from four classes to six. So there will be six games this weekend instead of the usual four. There are high level division one recruits in all six games, and some serious talent will be on hand.

Class A

Friday 1:00

Clairton (14-0) vs. Bishop Guilfoyle (14-0)

Clairton returns to Hershey for the first time since 2014, when they lost to Bishop Guilfoyle 19-18. If you are a high school football fan in Pennsylvania, you know all about the success this program has had. They have won 9 of the past 11 WPIAL Class A championships, and have won four state championships with three of those fueled by Pitt great, Tyler Boyd. Now Pitt fans are hoping another Clairton star will take his talents to Oakland. Lamont Wade is one of the top ten recruits nationally according to Rivals.com, and has Pitt in his final list of schools. He plays running back for the Bears and plays just about anywhere on defense, but projects as a cornerback at the collegiate level. Pitt is right there for his services. The Bears also feature Noah Hamlin, an intriguing senior prospect Pitt seems to be monitoring. Hamlin is on the smaller side, but as you will see in this game, he can really play. Pitt may offer some time in the next few weeks.

Bishop Guilfoyle doesn’t have any players Pitt is after, but they are one of the best dynasties in recent history. Bishop Guilfoyle has won the past two state championships and is currently riding a 46 game winning streak. They haven’t lost a game since 2013, and while they may not have a Wade or Hamlin, they are still talented. Bishop Guilfoyle features four players committed to play at the FCS level, and a massive offensive line. The story-line with this team is the return of Evan Chadbourn. He was the class A player of the year last season and tore his ACL in the offseason, and has now returned to the field. It’ll be interesting to see how much he plays.

Class AA

Saturday 11:00

Steel Valley (14-0) vs. Southern Columbia (15-0)

Pitt fans should have their eyes set on this game. The crown jewel of Pat Narduzzi’s recruiting class is Paris Ford, and he is the leader of the Steel Valley Ironmen. He will be coming to Pitt as a safety, but he’s a big offensive factor for this team. Steel Valley has been one of the most dominant teams in WPIAL history. They have put the running clock on their opponent in all fourteen games this season, that’s absurd. They also feature talented senior running back, Dewayne Murray. Pitt showed interest early on, but never offered him.

Southern Columbia is perhaps the best program in Pennsylvania. They are making their 15th appearance in a state title game, and they have won seven of them, the most in state history. They are led by legendary coach Jim Roth, who has been leading the Tigers for 33 seasons. They beat Aliquippa last season in the state championship and are riding a 31 game winning streak. They aren’t loaded with any known division one prospects, but they start some freshmen and they could develop over time. This is the alma-mater of former Pitt fullback, Henry Hynoski.

Class AAA

Middletown (14-0) vs. Beaver Falls (12-1)

Saturday 3:30

Beaver Falls has never made it this far in program history, and they will be in search of their first ever state championship. The Tigers have produced tons of talent throughout their program and this year isn’t any different. Donovan Jeter is a four-star prospect that is committed to Michigan. He is the younger brother of Pitt basketball player, Sheldon Jeter. He has had a whirlwind recruitment, and many expected Pitt to be his landing spot at the beginning of the season. It didn’t work out that way as Jeter committed to Notre Dame before switching to Michigan. Beaver Falls also has talented junior receiver, Malik Shepherd. Pitt hasn’t offered yet, but they may.

Middletown isn’t a traditional powerhouse, but they are riding into the title game with a perfect 14-0 record. They have won all four of their playoff games by at least 28 points. Middletown is just outside of Harrisburg, and should have a strong fan presence in Hershey this weekend.

Class AAAA

Erie Cathedral Prep (13-0) vs. Imhotep Charter (13-0)

Thursday 7:00

Erie Cathedral Prep is making their sixth appearance in the state championship game, and will be going for their third state title in school history. The Ramblers are historically one of the top programs in the Northwest part of the state. As usual, Prep has a number of division one recruits on their roster. Matthew Baurer is one of the top junior linebackers in the country, and is already committed to Notre Dame. Fredrick Scruggs is a four-star junior offensive linemen with a number of offers already. Pitt hasn’t offered, but they may soon.

Imhotep Charter won last year’s AAA state title game over Erie Cathdral Prep 40-3, and many may expect similar results this season. Imhotep has developed into one of the more regarded programs in the state in a short amount of time. They have division one players year in and year out. Their top player is junior safety, Isheem Young. He is a four-star talent and Pitt and just about everyone else has offered him. Justin Johnson is a massive 6’7” 330 pound junior linemen that has multiple offers as well. They will have about a half dozen or so other division one players.

Class AAAAA

Archbishop Wood (10-2) vs. Harrisburg (11-3)

Friday 7:00

Since the Philadelphia Catholic league joined the PIAA in 2007, Archbishop Wood has been a frequent visitor to Hershey. They have been to the state championship five times, and won three of them. The Vikings always put players into the next level, and this year is no different. They are led by four-star wide receiver Mark Webb. Pitt offered, but he has already committed to Georgia. Raheem Blackshear is another receiver committed to Temple. Kyle Pitts is a three-star junior tight end that holds a Pitt offer. Wood will likely be the favorite in this game.

Harrisburg dominated West Allegheny to get themselves into the state championship game. They are led by a pair of Penn State commitments. Damion Barber is a senior defensive end committed to the Nittany Lions. They also have the top junior in the state in Micah Parsons. He is also a defensive end, but they use him as a running back. Parsons may be the most talented player playing in Hershey this weekend, and that’s saying something. Also on Harrisburg is junior wide receiver Shaquon Anderson-Butts, who holds offers from Pitt, Penn State, and WVU among others.

Class AAAAAA

Pittsburgh Central Catholic (14-1) vs. St. Joseph’s Prep (13-0)

Saturday 8:00

Pittsburgh Central Catholic is the defending state champions at the AAAA level, but now have been bumped to 6A. The Vikings have four state titles in program history and routinely produce some of the most talent in the state. They sent three kids to Pitt last year, including Damar Hamlin. This year is also a talented year, but it hasn’t been kind to the Panthers. David Adams and Kurt Hinish are committed to Notre Dame, while CJ Thorpe is pledged to Penn State. Pitt offered all three, but came up empty. They do have two talented juniors Pitt could be after, nose tackle David Green and quarterback Troy Fisher do not hold Pitt offers, but they may receive offers in the Spring. Aside from the high-end talent, Central has many FCS level players. This game is loaded with talent. Panther-lair.com’s Ryan Donnelly posted this stat the other day.

Saint Joseph’s Prep is ranked 15th nationally by USA Today, they are the real deal. The won the state title in 2013 and 2014, so they are not strangers to this game. They feature arguably the best running back in the nation in D’andre Swift. He is currently committed to Georgia, and was recruited by all the big names. Darryle SImmons is a four-star junior receiver with a Pitt offer.