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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Picks and Predictions for the PIAA State Finals

RECORDS (Week 15 — Overall — Perfect Picks):

Andy Shay: 9-3 — 239-59 — 1

Geoff Morrow: 6-6 — 220-78 — 3

Andy Sandrik: 7-5 — 218-80 — 0

Adam Kulikowski: 10-2 — 207-91 — 1

Thursday’s Games

PIAA Class 1A Championship

6-1 Bishop Guilfoyle vs. 9-1 Redbank Valley, at Hersheypark Stadium, 1

Andy Shay: Redbank Valley 27, Bishop Guilfoyle 23: For the second week in a row, my football mind tells me BG is the team better equipped to win the small-school title. I can’t help rooting for the lads from D9, though, because they’ve climbed some major hurdles to get here and possess some elements that could get the Marauders on tilt.

Geoff Morrow: Redbank Valley 23, Bishop Guilfoyle 21: While the Marauders from Altoona have won three state titles since 2014, not a single team from the far reaches of District 9 has ever won a PIAA championship. In fact, I think Smethport in 1992 is the only D9 squad to make it this far, falling to former District 3 small-school powerhouse Scotland in the Class A final. But why not the Bulldogs? Why not now? This collection of multi-sport athletes obviously believe in each other and keep finding ways to win. If RV wins, expect a party unlike any other in Clarion and Armstrong county history. 

Andy Sandrik: Bishop Guilfoyle 30, Redbank Valley 24: Why do I feel like there’s more pressure on the underdog Bulldogs, the team that can make District 9 history, than on the Marauders, who seem to be in state contention nearly every fall?

Adam Kulikowski: Bishop Guilfoyle 28, Redbank Valley 27: On the biggest stage, the team that is most battle-tested hails from Altoona. Experience matters, and this is a crew that should be more prepared to navigate the emotions of playing for a state title.

PIAA Class 4A Championship

3-1 Bishop McDevitt vs. 7-1 Aliquippa, at Hersheypark Stadium, 7

Andy Shay: Bishop McDevitt 28, Aliquippa 21: Couple of young and talented quarterbacks with plenty of offensive weapons around them to help out. At the end of the day, I think the defenses for each team end up having a major say in the outcome of this one.

Geoff Morrow: Bishop McDevitt 21, Aliquippa 20: There will be MANY interesting matchups, but the RB vs. LB battles will really go a long way to deciding this outcome. How about Quips RB Tiqwai Hayes vs. McD LB Ryan Russo, or Crusaders RB Marquese Williams vs. LB Cameron Lindsey? McDevitt really, really wants to add to its lone 1995 title, while Aliquippa seeks its fourth (1991, 2003, 2018). No shortage of talent, so who makes the fewest mistakes?

Andy Sandrik: Bishop McDevitt 31, Aliquippa 21: I think Aliquippa has as good of a chance as anyone against McDevitt, but then I look up and down this Crusaders roster and realize how many different ways Jeff Weachter’s boys can beat you. McDevitt wins its first state title since 1995.

Adam Kulikowski: Bishop McDevitt 35, Aliquippa 33: To me, the Crusaders’ offensive line holds the keys to this battle. Can it keep a strong Quips d-line in check and open holes for Marquese Williams and Cyncir Bowers? And, perhaps most importantly, can this line provide the time Stone Saunders needs to feel comfortable in the pocket and settle into a rhythm?

Friday’s Games

PIAA Class 2A Championship

4-1 Southern Columbia vs. 7-1 Serra Catholic, at Hersheypark Stadium, 1

Andy Shay: Southern Columbia 42, Serra Catholic 19: Is this the “one for the thumb” for the Tigers? A victory by SC would make it an even dozen state titles and five in a row. I like where the Eagles are heading into this matchup, but the Tigers have shown too much might at this level for too long to think they are NOT going to win.

Geoff Morrow: Southern Columbia 45, Serra Catholic 20: The Tigers own 11 PIAA titles, including four straight. Among those championship tilts, the two closest scores aren’t close at all: 31-6 over Rochester in 2002, and 42-14 over Wilmington last year. The Eagles out of McKeesport pulled an impressive upset of Farrell last week, but they’ve never claimed PIAA gold before, and to do so on Friday would be an even bigger stunner.

Andy Sandrik: Southern Columbia 38, Serra Catholic 21: Imagine making it all the way to the state title game and then being picked to get blown out by all of the experts. Nothing personal, Serra Catholic; there is just an ambush of dangerous Tigers waiting on the other side of the field on Friday afternoon.

Adam Kulikowski: Southern Columbia 41, Serra Catholic 28: It feels like each year we’re talking about who the Tigers are going to knock off in the state finals. This year is no different. Quite the achievement to win five straight titles — and this crew should do just that.

PIAA Class 5A Championship

12-1 Imhotep Charter vs. 7-1 Penn-Trafford, at Hersheypark Stadium, 7

Andy Shay: Imhotep Charter 21, Penn-Trafford 7: I think this will be a defensive tussle into the second half. If that’s the way this unfolds, the ridiculous numbers this Panthers defense has rolled up 2021 will win out in the end. I mean, one team has scored twice on Imhotep, and it threw up a shutout in the state semifinal. Call me Mr. Defense this year.

Geoff Morrow: Imhotep Charter 28, Penn-Trafford 7: Do you realize the Panthers out of Philadelphia haven’t allowed more than 13 points in a game all season? They’ve allowed a total of 24 points since October, including a 36-0 shutout of Strath Haven last weekend. Remember the name Rahmir Stewart. The Warriors of Penn-Trafford are obviously an impressive unit, but I can’t get past what the Imhotep defense has done. I’m expecting the Panthers to add another trophy next to their 2015 version.

Andy Sandrik: Imhotep Charter 21, Penn-Trafford 14: I want to contribute something other than “dEfEnSe WiNs ChAmPiOnShIpS,” so I’m going to point out that Imhotep’s only loss came to La Salle College, a team that also beat Bishop McDevitt, another PIAA finalist. Interestingly enough, the Explorers didn’t make it out of the first round.

Adam Kulikowski: Imhotep Charter 24, Penn-Tafford 14: Imhotep’s top two backs average more than 10 yards per carry. How Penn-Tafford combats that explosive duo will dictate how long it remains within striking distance of the Panthers.

Saturday’s Games

PIAA Class 3A Championship

3-1 Wyomissing vs. 7-1 Central Valley, at Hersheypark Stadium, noon

Andy Shay: Wyomissing 24, Central Valley 21: Let’s go beyond the obvious for a second when it comes to this pick. CV has ripped almost every defense it has faced this season, averaging close to 50 points per game. I like the Wyo defense, and it’s better than it was a year ago. Here’s my hidden key: The Wyo offense is more powerful than you think, and it hogs the ball. Will CV get enough chances to wreck this game? Big plays must be avoided by the Spartans’ defense for this to happen. Friendly reminder: Wyomissing beat Southern Columbia 41-21!

Geoff Morrow: Central Valley 27, Wyomissing 21: The only game to feature a pair of unbeaten teams, this is the clichéd heavyweight fight, a rematch of last year’s championship slugfest, won 35-21 by the Warriors. This one gets the hype, deservedly so, with star power galore on both sidelines and on both sides of the ball. If revenge is a deciding factor, tilt it toward the Spartans of Berks County. If history is a deciding factor, CV finds a way. A splendid show no matter what.

Andy Sandrik: Wyomissing 28, Central Valley 21: The more I try to search out a weakness for CV, the more I’m convinced the Warriors have no weaknesses. Still, I trust that the revenge-minded Spartans will find a way after getting beat in the final by CV last year.

Adam Kulikowski: Wyomissing 32, Central Valley 31: Round 2! These two clubs battle for the state title for the second year in a row. This time the Spartans flip the script to bring a state title home.

PIAA Class 6A Championship

12-1 St. Joseph’s Prep vs. 7-1 Mt. Lebanon, at Hersheypark Stadium, 6

Andy Shay: St. Joseph’s Prep 38, Mt. Lebanon 27: I’m on the list of those who thought for some unknown reason that SJP was going to get all it could handle from Garnet Valley last week and picked the Hawks to lose. Yeah, I didn’t swallow the whole bottle of stupid pills, though. I am worried about the Mt. Lebo defense in this matchup.

Geoff Morrow: St. Joseph’s Prep 42, Mt. Lebanon 29: I guess I’m among the suckers who, for whatever dumb reason, thought the Hawks — the same program that’s decisively won six PIAA titles since 2013, including the last three big-school championships — would somehow falter vs. District 1 upstart Garnet Valley last weekend. My bad. Now, as much as I admire what the undefeated Blue Devils have done in reaching this game, I’m unable to pick twice in a row against Prep. I’m also a bit curious about Mt. Lebo surrendering 28 points to State College last weekend, an unusually high point for the Little Lions. I feel there’s something there SJP can exploit.

Andy Sandrik: St. Joseph’s Prep 35, Mt. Lebanon 21: Remember that year SJP wasn’t in the state final? Yeah, neither do I. This is the Hawks’ eighth PIAA championship appearance in the last nine years.

Adam Kulikowski: St. Joseph’s Prep 41, Mt. Lebanon 20: Each year until further notice, just pencil St. Joseph’s Prep as my 6A state champion. After winning the last three titles, it just feels like a formality for Prep to be anointed champs.

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