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Will The WPIAL Give Up It's Stranglehold On AAAA?
By Jason Coleman, Nauticom Sports Network

The WPIAL is 10-1 in the AAAA Western Finals

The closest thing to a dynasty in the western PIAA playoffs has come not from one team, but from a league. The AAAA teams from the WPIAL have played in 10 of 11 state final games since the inception of the PIAA playoffs in 1988.

Everyone seems to think it is Erie Cathedral Preps year to shine. To do so they will have to overcome what has become a psychological obstacle. Just one team from outside the WPIAL, the 1991 Erie Cathedral Prep squad, has been able to take on Eastern PA's finest. To put this in even more perspective only two Western champions, New Castle in 1998 and Erie Prep in 1991, have been from outside Allegheny County.

Does this mean that good AAAA football isn't played outside of the WPIAL?

Not so according to Mike Mischler, head coach of Erie Prep, who lost the 1998 western final to New Castle 27-25. "It has more to do with the schedule played by WPIAL teams. Week in and week out they have to play good teams." Those WPIAL teams have had an increasingly smaller winning margin. Anyone that has watched a Quad-A western final knows that those WPIAL squad are beating quality teams. Back in 1993 one of McKeesport's toughest games was the western final against Erie Central, in 1996-1997 Erie McDowell took Woodland Hills and Upper Saint Clair to the final minutes and Erie Prep was in control for most of the game last year.

So this should be the year that District 10 gets the monkey of its back. Most everyone thinks so. The Ramblers are 12-0 and ranked #17 nationally by USA Today. They have dominated their PIAA playoffs games winning the two games by a combined 97-0. Many are saying that this is the finest team to ever come out of the Erie area and they have done little to disappoint. Their most difficult game of the season came during a relatively easy 28-7 win over State College. They will get a stern test this Friday night as they make a return trip to the PIAA Western Finals when they travel to Hempfield Township to meet the WPIAL champion Woodland Hills Wolverines (13-0).

The high powered Prep offense that is averaging 47.5 points per game on the season will have its first real test of the postseason. But the Ramblers have more than just a great offense. Their defense has been impressive as well giving up an average of just 5.1 points a game, many of those after they are securely in the lead.

The game this Friday night against Woodland Hills will be for more than just a trip to Hershey, it could end 7 years of frustration for Erie teams against the WPIAL. For coach Mischler it will be a chance to return the Ramblers to the lofty status they held in the 1980's and a shot at PIAA gold for the sometimes forgotten District 10 AAAA football programs.