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The Road To Three Rivers Stadium Has Been Paved
By Paul Paterra

The road to Three Rivers Stadium has been paved. The 60 teams in the WPIAL playoffs now know which route they need to take to get to the home of the Steelers and Pirates, for a chance to play for a WPIAL football championship. On the surface, this year's tournament appears to be wide-open. A number of teams can go to Three Rivers Stadium and bring home the trophies that go to the WPIAL champions.

"This was not an easy task," said WPIAL Executive Director Larry Hanley. "It was not easy to put these together." Hanley revealed the pairings Monday at the Radisson Hotel in Green Tree. Woodland Hills received the top seed in Quad A, West Allegheny is number one in Class AAA, Aliquippa is the top seed in Class AA and South Side Beaver earned the top spot in Class A. "This is the best tournament in the state, and in my opinion it's one of the best in the country," said WPIAL President Pat Ratesic. Each of the four WPIAL championship games will be Nov. 27 at Three Rivers Stadium.

WPXI's John Fedko interviews
Woodland Hills coach, George Novak.

WTAE's Andrew Stockey and
Operation Football interviews

Quad A

Woodland Hills - the top seed - will be tested in the first round. Connellsville will come to the Wolvarena Friday night, bringing the WPIAL's leading rusher Marcus Furman. Second-seed North Hills will host McKeesport and the Tigers' potent triple-option offense. Penn Hills will host Norwin at Andrew Yuhas Stadium. When the Indians won the state title in 1995, they started their postseason run at home against Norwin. "They're very good and very physical," said Norwin coach Tim McCabe of the Indians. "We've got to go there and give them a game." Other first-round matchups have Mt. Lebanon hosting Seneca Valley, Bethel Park at New Castle, Baldwin hosting Gateway, Ringgold traveling to Greensburg-Salem and Penn-Trafford playing host to North Allegheny.

Each of the top four seeds has a bye during the first week of competition. Following West Allegheny is Belle Vernon, Moon and Burrell. This weekend does present some interesting matchups. West Mifflin will host Highlands in an intriguing contest between two top notch defensive teams. West Mifflin has allowed but 99 points this season, Highlands 73.

NSN's Marty Caridi chats with West Allegheny coach (top) Bob Palko and Pine Richland coach (bottom) Claire Altemus. The reward for the winner is a clash with West Allegheny Ambridge; Pine Richland will travel in the playoffs for the first time since 1992. The Rams have a dynamite one-two punch in quarterback Vincent Cerosimo and running back Steve Devennie. The two teams met in a 10th week game last season, with Pine-Richland winning 42-36. Other matchups have Thomas Jefferson hosting Hopewell and its bevy of talented backs, including 1,000-yard rushers Josh Long and Jason Burkett, and Elizabeth Forward traveling to Valley. EF boasts running back Pat Risha, who has surpassed 3,000 yards rushing in his career; and Valley has talented quarterback Dom Giradi, who has thrown for more than 1,200 yards this season. "They have a lot of good athletes," Elizabeth Forward coach Rich Bowen said of Valley. "They have two or three running backs that are inter-
changeable. We have our work cut out for us."

NSN broadcast team covered the event live. Click on the Pairings Show if you missed it.

Aliquippa opens its playoff run against Freeport. The Quips won five WPIAL titles in the 1980s, but haven't collected the championship hardware since 1991. Exciting Bernard Lay leads the Quips from his quarterback position. Steel Valley is the number two seed. The Ironmen host Mohawk Saturday at Campbell Field. Steel Valley has shown the ability to pass with quarterback Luke Getsy, run with running back Devin Wilson and stop the opposition with a staunch defense led by linebacker Dan Drane. Other first-round matchups have third-seeded Waynesburg hosting South Park, fourth-seeded Center playing host to Seton-LaSalle, Beaver Falls at Jeannette, Shady Side Academy traveling to Washington in a rematch of last year's WPIAL title game, North Catholic hosting Quaker Valley and Brownsville entertaining Mars.

South Side Beaver hosts California in the first round. If the Rams are fortunate enough to win that game, matters get a bit tougher. The next game would come against the winner of the Carmichaels-Riverview game. Clairton hosts Farrell in a contest between the two combatants in the 1990 WPIAL championship game. Farrell won that game 39-0. "I think (our players) are going to be excited to play a team with the rich tradition we have," said Clairton coach Joe Fischer. If Clairton wins, it gets the winner of the Fort Cherry Frazier matchup. Fort Cherry and Clairton have played each other in the playoffs the last two years. Other first-round matchups have Greensburg Central Catholic at South Fayette, Rochester hosting Brentwood, Monaca traveling to Duquesne and Monessen hosting Chartiers Houston.