FARAGO’S FORECAST: WPIAL CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW
Written by: Billy Splain on Wednesday, November 19th, 2008
It’s that time again! The Pittsburgh Steelers open its doors to the WPIAL and four Championship games played in just a total of 12 hours. Some had teams that will be making the trip to Pittsburgh’s North Shore on Championship Saturday picked to make it back in August, and others have a Cinderella story to tell. No matter how they got to the WPIAL finals, all eight teams want to be one of the four that don’t park their bus just yet and continue to the Highway to Hershey.
Farago was busy preparing his forecast for the biggest games of the year, and then he looked up from his notes, and saw he received an email from none other then the WPIAL! Farago thought, they may want him to flip the coin at mid-field as an honored guest. Very excited, he opened his email to see that it wasn’t much of an honor at all. The email said that he could come to the games but would have to sit outside with the fans for 12 hours, in 30 degree temperatures! Farago was extremely upset, after having gone a perfect 8-0 last week in his forecast of the semi-finals, even after beating out the great football forecaster the Fumbler. Farago has high hopes that WPIAL will let him in the press box on Saturday, or he may come down with hypothermia and miss out on the State Finals!
Here is the forecast for the WPIAL Championships:
Clairton Bears (12-0) vs. Monaca Indians (11-1)
The Clairton Bears are no stranger to the WPIAL Championship spotlight, as this year they make their third trip to the North Shore in four years. They are used to playing Big 7 teams in the Finals, but that Big 7 team always seems to be Rochester. However, after the Bears themselves knocked the Rams out last week, they will meet another Big 7 team … the Monaca Indians.
It seems like after the Indians rain-danced on the Rams 17-0 in the 95thversion of the “Battle of the Bridge” in the final week of the regular season, the Indians have not looked back, after winning 56-22 in round one over Charmichaels, then taking down Big 7 rival Southside Beaver 48-7 in the Quarter Finals. Wrapping up their magical run throughthe post season with a win over previously undefeated Avonworth 17-6. The Indians have some momentum going to the finals.
The leader of the tribe for the Indians is senior quarterback/running back Tony Reda who has just had a coming out party all season long, racking up touchdown after touchdown.
This is the rematch of the 1982 finals, when Monaca beat Clairton in a close one…14-12. Don’t let the Bears think they can play the underdog rule, after all they come into the title game with 471 points for, and only 30 against. However, both shut out highly ranked Rochester this season.
Farago thinks that he made the right choice in August and the Bears will be able to keep warm on Saturday morning, and take down the Indians with little trouble.
CLAIRTON over Monaca
Beaver Falls Tigers (12-0) vs. Aliquippia Quips (10-2)
The rematch of a week 3 Thursday Night battle will be in the FSN spotlight yet again on Saturday afternoon, as Todd Thomas and the Beaver Falls Tigers will look to win the WPIAL Championship that they lost last year vs. Jeannette. This time, with Aliquippa standing in the way.
The Beaver County Showdown will be front-and-center on the North Shore, with two of the most dominate teams in the WPIAL. According to wpial.org, Aliquippa has won 12 of the 19 WPIAL Championships they made an appearance in. Beaver Falls has won only 3 titles, the last coming in 1984 which Aliquippa can also claim a title in that same year, they won the “AAA” title, while Beaver Falls won in class “AA”.
Beaver Falls was thought to be carried by Pitt bound Todd Thomas, however their have been players that really stepped into their role including, quarterback Tony Omogrosso, running back Admire Carter, and most notably junior running back, Cody Cook who has burnt his fair share of defenses this year, with 25 touchdowns, and had a huge game last week vs. defending state champion Jeannette, with over 100 yards at the five minute mark of the 1st quarter.
In the first meeting between the two teams it was all Beaver Falls, racking up 327 yards on the ground, without any balance only attempting four passes in the game all in the first half. Beaver Falls went on to win 27-12.
Farago thinks (recent) history will repeat itself on Saturday, not to mention he forecasted that Beaver Falls would be the WPIAL “AA” Champion back in August.
BEAVER FALLS over Aliquippa
CLASS AAA- CHAMPIONSHIP
Thomas Jefferson Jaguars (11-1) vs. Blackhawk Cougars (11-1)
At 4:55pm on Saturday at Heinz Field, do not to be surprised to hear public address announcer Randy Cosgrove say “Welcome to the Thomas Jefferson Invitational….I mean the “AAA” WPIAL Championship”
After all, just because Thomas Jefferson sports black and gold does not mean they should make Heinz Field their second home. However the Triple-A Juggernaught is back again, making their 6th straight appearance in the Championship game, something only Braddock can also claim. (according to wpial.org)
The Jags will invite back the Blackhawk Cougars, who they took out 35-15 in 2006. The Cougars remember back when it was the “Blackhawk Invitational” winning 4 titles in 6 years, and three of them coming in consecutive seasons.
Blackhawk head Coach and Beaver County Hall of Fame member, Joe Hamilton leads the Cougars in his 30th season. It hasn’t seemed like Joe has left Beaver County, a graduate of Beaver High School. He then played football at Geneva College and was a four year letter winner. Coming into Saturday’s Championship Hamilton has 329 victories (according to blackhawkqbclub.org).
The coach on the opposite side of the field is at the other side of his career, but just as good. Bill Cherpak (and his shorts) is in his 13th season of coaching, after he helped run Anderson Funeral Home in Munhall, Cherpak took the AD job at Thomas Jefferson in 2004. It is strange to see that working at a funeral home is on Bill’s resume, because of how much life he has given Thomas Jefferson Football.
In the last ten year Cherpak is 123-21, which is the best coaching record in the WPIAL in that span, with Aliquippa’s Mike Zemijanac next in line.
Cherpack, has won WPIAL titles both ways, as a coach and as a linemen on the 1982 Steel Valley team under the direction of present Woodland Hills coach George Novak.
Farago knows one thing is for sure, Brian will have a big day running the ball. Thomas Jefferson’s Brian Baldridge has 25 touchdowns on the year after missing most of last season. For Blackhawk it is Brain Stefanik, that carries the load with over 1,100 yards this season.
For the third time, Farago has a chance to go with his pick back in August and he thinks there is a reason why he did it then, so he will not change his forecast now. Thomas Jefferson to win it’s third straight title.
THOMAS JEFFERSON over Blackhawk
CLASS-AAAA CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Gateway Gators (12-0) vs. Bethel Park Black Hawks (12-0)
Everyone in Monroeville still has nightmares about last years WPIAL Championship, after coming back down 3 scores, and sending the game into overtime with one second left in the game on a hook-and-ladder play, the Gators still came one point short and another year went past with Terry Smith still wanting a title as a coach, already having one as a player with Gateway back in 1986.
Gateway will be the third repeat team that fans can see on Saturday, as well as in last years Championship, the other two being Beaver Falls, who also lost last year and Thomas Jefferson, who is the only team back from last year that won.
Gateway is ranked #3 team in the Country by the USA Today and had little trouble in the WPIAL this season. With key victories against Penn Hills in week one, and McKeesport in week 9.
Bethel Park has never won a WPIAL Championship, in fact they have had only one shot at a title which fell to Mount Lebaonon. The Black Hawks have been stealth-like this season knocking of the likes of Central Catholic, Upper St. Clair, and a huge upset win over McKeesport last week.
The Hawks come into Championship Saturday lead by quarterback Erik Olson, who has lit up the sky this season passing for over 1,000 yards. The key for BethelPark, is that their defense is able to keep up with Gateway’s high powered offense.
Speaking of Gateway, they come in only allowing 109 points this season, and unless they get shutout or the WPIAL finds a way to score negative points in 3 days, Gateway is a point away from a 500 point season (according to gatewaygators.com).
Terry Smith has more in common then just having played for Gateway in high school with some of his players, in fact some even share the same street address. Firethorn Drive, has raised the likes of, Arron Smith (Steelers), Bj Stevens (Penn State), Justin King (Pitt), and current player Cory Brown, not to forget Terry Smith himself.
Farago thinks that it is about time Terry Smith gets a WPIAL title as a coach, and he also thinks that he has a chance at sweeping the WPIAL Champions from his picks back on August 22nd.
GATEWAY over Bethel Park
Farago has never had to use so many words to make his forecast (1,641 to be exact) but never the less he has made it to the end of another WPIAL season. He is sure to continue his forecasting abilty into the state playoff’s. Coming into this weekend, Farago brings in a record of 541-107 (83%). Congrats to all the teams that have made it this far, and good luck in the finals!
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