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Scholastic Notebook
By Rich Emert
Vally News Dispatch

It isn't championship weekend in the WPIAL, but there will be plenty of scholastic football action at Three Rivers Stadium Saturday.

The WPIAL will play its Class AAA and AAAA semifinals at Three Rivers with the winners returning in a week to play for WPIAL championships and the right to participate in the PIAA playoffs.

Semifinals in Class A and AA will be played Friday at four sites. Here is a quick look at all of the semifinals beginning with the Friday night affairs at 7:30.

South Side Beaver (11-0) vs. Fort Cherry (10-1) at Hampton: South Side is the No. 1 ranked Class A team in the state. The Rams are paced by fullback Cory Boyd, who has rushed for 979 yards on 137 attempts, and quarterback Sean McCune, who has gained 755 yards on 108 carries and passed for another 854. South Side must contain Fort Cherry tailback Mike Vernillo, who has gained 1,909 yards on 196 carries and scored 27 touchdowns. He is the WPIAL's all-time leading rusher.

South Fayette (9-2) vs. Monaca (9-2) at West Mifflin: There are those who think Monaca is the team to beat in Class A despite the fact it lost to South Side Beaver the first week of the season. Todd DiBacco, a bruising running back, leads Monaca with 1,361 yards on 205 carries. Quarterback Niel Loebig is South Fayette's leader and has completed 124 of 193 passes for 2,030 yards and 27 touchdowns.

Class AA
Aliquippa (11-0) vs. Washington (10-1) at Mt. Lebanon: Aliquippa's defense has been the star of this season. The Quips have allowed just 83 points and no team has scored more than 14 points against them. Vashawn Patrick paces the offense e with 1,403 yards rushing on 214 carries. Washington has been beat up of late, but still has plenty of big-play people led by quarterback Brent Marsteller, who has completed 51 of 114 passes for 1,061 yards and 12 scores.

Waynesburg (11-0) vs. Brownsville (8-2) at Ringgold: Waynesburg likes to run the football a lot. Lanfer Simpson, who has 1,238 yards on 162 carries, and Bryce Cree, who has gained 921 on 127 attempts, are the Raiders leaders. Brownsville isn't has high powered. The Falcons, in the semifinals for a third consecutive year, are led by running back Justin Spence. He has gained 770 yards on 119 carries and scored 15 touchdowns.

Class AAA
Elizabeth Forward (7-4) vs. Belle Vernon (10-0) at Three Rivers: This is the breakfast club game at 10 a.m. Elizabeth Forward has been the Cinderella team of the playoffs, but the ball may be over for the Warriors. Tailback Pat Risha, who has gained 1,619 yards on 298 carries, has mononucleosis and probably will not play. Belle Vernon has Nick Kalcevic, who is expected to play a lot. He has rushed 145 times for 1,735 yards and 20 touchdowns.

West Allegheny (10-0) vs. Thomas Jefferson (8-3) at Three Rivers: This one is expected to kick off at 1 p.m. and West Allegheny, which has allowed just 24 points, is the favored. Surprisingly, West Allegheny's leading rusher is Jamie Fitzgerald, who has just 437 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Tyler Palko has completed 55 of 104 passes for 979 yards and 14 scores. Thomas Jefferson has a two-headed attack led by quarterback Steve Scott, who has completed 91 of 180 passes for 1,604 yards, and running backs Tom Blaze and Tom Jura. Blaze has rushed for 803 yards, Jura 698.

Class AAAA
Norwin (8-3) vs. McKeesport (7-4) at Three Rivers: Kickoff for this game is set at 4 p.m. McKeesport is back in the semifinals for the first time since it won WPIAL and PIAA titles in 1994. Quarterback Cecil Howard runs the Tigers wishbone offense and has rushed for 1,623 yards and 19 touchdowns. Norwin is in the semifinals for the first time in school history. Jim Cooper, who has rushed for 845 yards and passed for another 1,004, is the Knights star.

Woodland Hills (11-0) vs. Mt. Lebanon (10-1) at Three Rivers: Kickoff is set at 7 p.m. but could be later if the other games run long. Woodland Hills is favored to captured the WPIAL title and has a solid running game led by Maurice Walker with 821 yards on 110 carries. Mt. Lebanon is in the semifinals for the first time since 1991. Quarterback Kevin Weidl is the Blue Devils leader and has passed for 1,067 yards with 53 completions in 95 attempts.

City guys: Schenley ended its drought and won the City League football title for the first time since 1950 last Saturday. The Spartans defeated Oliver 41-27, scoring 34 consecutive points after falling behind 27-7 late in the second quarter.

Running back Tayon Mitchell was Schenley star, running for 137 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries.

Schenley (11-0) didn't get much time to enjoy the victory. It plays talented Erie Cathedral Prep (10-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Veterans Stadium in Erie in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. Perry (7-3), the City League's other PIAA qualifier, entertains Greenville (11-0) at 1 p.m. Saturday at South Stadium.

Sweet time: Four WPIAL teams will go after PIAA soccer titles Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.

In girls' action, Charleroi (22-1-1) meets Radnor (21-1-3) in the Class AA final at 2 p.m.; Mt. Lebanon (23-4) plays West Chester Henderson (18-5-3) in Class AAA at 6 p.m. Mt. Lebanon and Henderson played in the title game last year.

In boys' action, Quaker Valley (24-2) will be going after its third PIAA title in five years when it meets Octorara (23-2) at 4 p.m. in Class AA. North Allegheny (26-0) takes on Downingtown (24-1-1) in the Class AAA final at 8 p.m.

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