Realignment creates intrigue in WPIAL football
The WPIAL’s realignment of the high school football landscape reintroduced old rivalries and made some conferences incredibly intriguing. With a plethora of talent returning in 2014, some teams are on the rise while others are forced to rebuild. Here is an early look at the realignment with question marks surrounding some teams.
|Peters Township QB Cory Owen
Upper St. Clair
Upper St. Clair, Bethel Park and Mt. Lebanon lost a ton of talent to graduation, which leaves their roster uncertain in 2014. While it is unknown if these teams have talent to replace a wide range of skill players and offensive linemen, it’s rare that they have a lack of talent. Canon-McMillan’s rocky 2013 season under Ron Coder won’t be replicated. The Big Macs have a ton of talent coming back, including Pitt commit Alex Paulina on the offensive line. Look for them to take a step forward. Quarterback Jordan Smith is returning, who led Canon-McMillan’s run-heavy offense
Peters Township quarterback Cory Owen received his first Division I offer from Toledo last week and while the Indians lost running back Marcus Ubinger and tight end Max Augenstein, the play-making 6-2 signal caller is dynamic enough to change a game with one play. Like the Big Macs, expect a dramatic improvement for Peters Township in 2014.
As usual, Woodland Hills will be the pick to win the Southeastern with a ton of returning talent.
|Ringgold QB Nico Law
The Big Nine did not change one bit. Elizabeth Forward and Thomas Jefferson are still the class of the conference, but do not overlook Ringgold. Nico Law will have one more year of experience under his belt and a playoff appearance. The season did not end to the Rams’ liking and Law lost his top target, Dayshore Majors. It does not matter. Law could very well be Western Pennsylvania’s most talented dual threat quarterback returning in 2014. College recruiters will be flooding Ringgold head coach Matt Humbert with phone calls soon, if they have not started already.
The Century Conference received a dramatic makeover with the addition of Carlynton, East Allegheny and Sto-Rox. Carlynton and Sto-Rox moved up from Class A, which always raises question marks about how a team will respond to bigger teams and tougher talent. They also have the disadvantage of joining a stout conference featuring the Class AA PIAA Champions, South Fayette. The Lions did lose contributors on both side of the ball (Justin Watson, Grant Fetchet, Zach Walker, Ben Berkovitz, Conner Beck and Spencer Girman). The void will be most apparent on the line of scrimmage, but South Fayette is returning Class AA Player of the Year, QB Brett Brumbaugh, along with offensive weapons that were overlooked in 2013.
Returning to help Brumbaugh is Roman Denson, who came on strong during the Lions’ playoff run before suffering an ankle injury in the PIAA semifinals, and tight end Logan Sharp. Denson is a shut down cornerback for South Fayette on defense and Sharp was often used as a crutch for Brumbaugh when Watson or Beck were well-covered by opposing teams. Look for South Fayette to take the conference and make another strong run for a WPIAL Championship.
|Wash High RB Malik Wells
The Interstate Conference added Burgettstown, which ignites a long standing rivalry with Wash High and McGuffey. The Highlanders also moved over from the Century Conference, which gives McGuffey natural rivals and a chance to immediately compete for a conference title. Senior James Duchi is one of the area’s most overlooked returning players in 2014, while his combination of size and speed makes him a perfect fit for McGuffey’s read-option offense.
A new season and new look for the conference offers the chance of a fresh start for Wash High. Losing a running back like Shai McKenzie would lead one to conclude a rebuilding year is in store for the Prexies, but that is not the case. Malik Wells emerged last season as an every down back for head coach Mike Bosnic, while Jonathan Spina returns as Wash High’s starting quarterback.