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Scholastic Notebook
By Rich Emert
Valley News Dispatch

It's almost here. Super Saturday at Three Rivers Stadium. The day when high school football junkies can get the fix that will last them until next season. The day when the WPIAL crowns its four champions.

Last Saturday, the WPIAL help a prelude to the big day with four semifinal games at Three Rivers. The games were not the most exciting, although they were more interesting that recent Steelers outings on the North Side of Pittsburgh. The championship games promise to be more interesting.

"The thing about these games is that the teams seem to matchup well," Plum High School coach Bill Rometo said. "Some times you get teams in the finals that don't match up, but that isn't the case this season."

He is right. The eight finalists do match up which should make for close contests and plenty of excitement for fans that travel the roads to Three Rivers Stadium. Here is a quick look at each contest, and remember all of the games will be on the Nauticom Sports Network.

Class AAAA
Woodland Hills (12-0) vs. McKeesport (8-4) at 7 p.m.

Nobody knows these teams better than Rometo, who had to prepare for both in the rugged Quad East Conference. He said the key for McKeesport is to score early.

"Woodland Hills is just so big up front and uses so many players that it will wear you down," Rometo said. "That's what happened the last time they played. The score was 6-0 going into the last quarter, but Woodland Hills just wore down McKeesport and ended up winning 21-0.

"What McKeesport has to do is get on the scoreboard early. If they can do that and keep their enthusiasm up, they have a chance."

McKeesport is paced by junior quarterback Cecil Howard who has performed like Superman in the playoffs. He rushed for 254 yards on 19 carries and scored three touchdowns in the Tigers 43-16 victory over Norwin in the semifinals. He is running McKeesport's triple option offense to perfection. This season, Howard has rushed for 1,877 yards on 199 carries. There is also running back Assad Allen who has carried 104 times for 737 yards.

Woodland Hills is more balanced on offense. Quarterback Marty Spieler has completed 41 of 71 passes for 645 yards and seven scores. Running backs Maruice Walker and Curtis Hall has rushed for 992 and 856 yards, respectively. Rafael Smith has 20 receptions for 349 yards.

Woodland Hills is favored going in but Howard and the Tigers are on a role. All of which should make for an interesting, and quick, Quad-A final. The winner will take on the Erie Cathedral Prep-Hollidaysburg winner Dec. 3 or 4.

Class AAA
Belle Vernon (11-0) vs. West Allegheny (11-0) at 4 p.m.

On paper it appears to be Belle Vernon's quick-strike offense vs. West Allegheny's "Three-and-0" defense. But it's not that simple.

"Belle Vernon make you play the whole field because of it's speed," Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak said. "They can get to the perimeter with the option and they aren't afraid to throw. They make it awful tough on a defense."

Lost in Belle Vernon's offensive fireworks - the Leopards have scored 435 points - is the team's defense. The Leopards held opponents to seven points or less six times this season. Offensively, running back Nick Kalcevic leads the way with 1,985 yards on 165 carries. That comes out to 12 yards per attempt.

West Allegheny has allowed only 24 points this season and has seven shutouts. Coach Bob Palko isn't worried about shutting out Belle Vernon. He's just after a victory. Quarterback Tyler Palko, the coach's son and one of the best sophomores in Pennsylvania, keys the Indians offense. He has passed for 1,049 yards and 14 touchdowns, completing 61 of 115 attempts with just three interceptions.

The winner of this one will take on the Perry Tradition Academy-Bellefonte winner in the western final Dec. 3 or 4.

Class AA
Washington (11-1) vs. Waynesburg (12-0) at 1 p.m.

These Three Rivers Conference rivals met just four weeks ago with Waynesburg winning, 25-7. But Washington was beat up for that one. The Little Prexies are healthy for this meeting.

"We beat Washington 6-0 the week before and they were beat up at that point," Seton-La Salle coach Lou Cerro said. "Just what they did last week against Aliquippa should give Washington confidence."

Against Aliquippa, Washington was pushed all over the field the first half was behind only 6-0 at the intermission. The Prexies came back to win 14-12 on two long touchdown passes to Mike Sutton.

Waynesburg likes to run the football a lot. The Raiders offense is led by Lanfer Simpson who has 1,352 yards and 17 touchdowns on 176 carries. Bryce Cree is right behind with 982 yards on 140 carries. Quarterback Lee Fritz has thrown just 93 passes.

Washington is more balanced. Four running backs have rushed for more than 250 yards led by Jason Ellis with 943 yards on 123 carries. Quarterback Brent Marsteller has completed 55 of 128 attempts for 1,172 yards and 14 touchdowns. Sutton is averaging 29 yards per reception with 15 catches.

"I like Washington," Cerro said. "First of all, Washington is healthy again and there is that old thing about it being tough to beat a good team twice in the same season."

The winner will play the Sharon-Tyrone winner in the western final Dec. 3 or 4.

Class A
South Side Beaver (12-0) vs. Monaca (10-2) at 10 a.m.

This is the breakfast special. It is also a rematch of a Big Nine Conference contest the first week of the season. South Side Beaver won that one 22-6, but Monaca has shuffled a lot of players since then.

Both like to run the football but they have different types of attacks. Monaca is more of a power team. Tailback Todd DiBacco, who is 6-2, 220 pounds, has rushed for 1,569 yards and 20 touchdowns on 230 carries. He is six yards away from reaching the 4,000-yard plateau for his career. Matt Phillips, who is 6-1, 235, has rushed for 898 yards and 13 touchdowns on 159 attempts. He keeps opposing defenses honest.

South Side Beaver will counter with fullback Cory Boyd, who has rushed 1,071 yards on 154 carries and scored 25 touchdowns. Quarterback Sean McCune is as good a runner as he is a passer. He has completed 56 of 91 passes for 981 yards and 11 touchdowns with just one interception. McCune has rushed 123 times for 828 yards and 14 scores.

"What South Side will do is have McCune take the football and just follow Boyd through the hole like a running back," Riverview coach Jake Cappa said. "South Side isn't as big as Monaca, but it's quicker. I think quick teams have an advantage."

Cappa said South Side Beaver's defense will be the difference. The Rams were able to contain Fort Cherry running back Mike Vernillo last week. Cappa thinks South Side will be able to stop Monaca.

The winner plays the Cameron County-Bishop Carroll winner in the western final Dec. 3 or 4.

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