A dose of cold weather surely didn’t mean cold offenses for WPIAL high school football games.
In 58 district games Friday night, 34 teams eclipsed 40 points. Two games, including Washington and Beth-Center, reached triple digits in combined points.
Local teams were a major part of the wild, high-scoring night. The 106 points scored between the Prexies and Bulldogs were the highest total. In the other important Interstate Conference game, Charleroi and McGuffey combined for 79 points. South Fayette came off the gas pedal after putting up 54 points in the first half against Highlands and didn’t score the rest of the game. Those teams still combined for 75 points. In a Tri-County South Conference matchup, California and Bentworth scored 76.
Here is what else we learned from a busy Week 7 of the high school football season:
1. Big win for Big Macs: No star running back. No momentum after falling to defending Class 6A defending state champion Pine-Richland last week. No playoffs for the last nine years.
With Drew Engel filling in at running back for an injured Josh O’Hare, Canon-McMillan travel more than an hour to thump playoff contender Norwin, 34-12, in what was basically a must-win Quad County Conference game for the Big Macs.
Engel ran for 292 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries as the Big Macs arguably won their most important game in Mike Evans’ tenure as head coach.
Now, C-M has the advantage of making the sixth and final playoff spot if it comes down to a head-to-head tiebreaker. The Big Macs, who are 2-4 in the conference and 3-4 overall, have won three of their last four games. They play Pittsburgh Central Catholic and Butler over the next two weeks.
Norwin (2-4, 3-5) has a pair of conference games against Mt. Lebanon and Seneca Valley remaining.
Could this be the year for Canon-McMillan to end a long postseason drought that dates back to 2008?
It sure looks like it.
2. Fredericktown meltdown: It was the second straight year Beth-Center had Washington exactly where it wanted. And for the second straight year, the Bulldogs fell flat and handed the game to the Prexies.
It has to be frustrating for Beth-Center. Not for playoff implications but for failure to finish the Prexies.
After falling behind to the Bulldogs the past two years, Washington has combined to score 90 of the final 98 points for a pair of comeback victories. They went on a 42-8 run last year to turn the game into a 49-20 blowout, then scored 40 points in the fourth quarter Friday night. Yes, 40 in one quarter. That’s not a typo.
3. Speaking of the Interstate: We were supposed to gain clarity in the Interstate Conference and, to some extent, were able to get it.
Charleroi will win at least a share of the title because it’s only remaining conference game is Brownsville.
Washington clinched a playoff spot with its victory. All four playoff spots are taken with Charleroi, McGuffey and Beth-Center already in.
McGuffey, despite surrendering 46 points Friday, has greatly improved its defense from a season ago. In the Highlanders’ four losses last season, they surrendered 12 touchdowns of 30 or more yards. They made Charleroi put together scoring drives Friday, which is quite an improvement from what opponents did to them last year.
4. Impactful injuries: Two players – West Greene running back Ben Jackson and Belle Vernon quarterback Jared Hartman – did not finish their games because of injuries.
Hartman was carted off the field on a stretcher with a leg injury, and Jackson wore a headset on the Pioneers’ sideline in the second half. Hartman reportedly tore his ACL, MCL and other ligaments that hold the patella together, ending his season.
These two are the heartbeat of their respective teams. Without them, their teams are in trouble. Here’s why:
Even though Belle Vernon is a run-heavy offense, the only way to beat the top teams in Class 4A – Thomas Jefferson and South Fayette – is to have a balanced offense.
For West Greene, the success of the offense depends on Jackson running behind the senior-laden offensive line.
The severity of Jackson’s injury is unknown, but West Greene coach Rodney Huffman could have just been cautious using him again because it was a non-conference game.
5. Players of the Week: Drew Engel – The production from the Canon-McMillan senior was already mentioned, but let’s not forget the importance. On a team struggling to consistently throw the ball, having a running game is essential for the Big Macs. Engel and a dominant effort upfront from C-M provided exactly that.
Austin Grillo – The California quarterback barely even throws five times each game in the option offense. In the Trojans’ 55-21 win over Bentworth, he threw for five touchdowns. All five of his completions went for scores, including long ones of 51, 43 and 40 yards.
Jamie Diven – Typically, a full game helps to make the list of players of the week. Diven, the first-year quarterback for South Fayette, only needed a half. He completed all nine pass attempts for 221 yards and three touchdowns in a 54-21 win over Highlands.