2019 PIAA State Championship Previews
This marks the fourth year that the PIAA will be working under the 6A system, with six state championship games taking place. There are a variety of teams involved this year, from nationally ranked St. Joseph’s Prep in District 12 (Philadelphia), to a team that could arguably be the best in the state, District 4 2A champion Southern Columbia, which enters this state title weekend with a 47-game winning streak.
The WPIAL has three teams (Avonworth, Central Valley and Thomas Jefferson), while District 12 (St. Joe’s Prep and Archbishop Wood) and District 2 (Wyoming Area and Dallas) have two each. There will one team each from Districts 1, 3, 4, 6 and 10.
Wyoming Area, Avonworth and Cheltenham are making their first-ever appearance in the state championship.
Class 1A Thursday 1 p.m.
(District-6) Bishop Guilfoyle Marauders (12-2) vs. (D-10) Farrell Steelers (13-2)
There is some state championship history between Farrell and Bishop Guilfoyle. Farrell is looking to defend its 2018 title, while Bishop Guilfoyle is making its fourth trip to the state finals in the last six years, and looking for its fourth title (won 2014, ’15 and ’16). The Marauders beat Farrell, 35-0, for the 2015 PIAA title. Farrell is riding a 13-game winning streak after losing its first two games this season, since moving Raymond Raver Jr. to quarterback. During that stretch, Farrell had an eight-game shutout run, outscoring its opponents 390-0 during that span. Raver has thrown for 950 yards and 14 touchdowns. This will be Farrell’s sixth visit to the PIAA state finals (1990, 1995, 1996, 2015, 2018, and 2019).
Bishop Guilfoyle beat Lackawanna Trail, last year’s state finalist, 11-7, in the state semifinals. Marauders’ junior Keegan Myrick scored once and added two interceptions in the victory to get here. This will be Bishop Guilfoyle’s fourth state title game in six years. The Marauders won three straight titles from 2014-2016.
Class 2A Friday 1 p.m.
(D-4) Southern Columbia Tigers (15-0) vs. (D-7) Avonworth Antelopes (15-0)
Southern Columbia enters the title game riding a 47-game winning streak. The Tigers could arguably be the best team in the state, even considering St. Joe’s Prep. Southern Columbia has won nine state titles, more than any other team in the state. Southern Columbia coach Jim Roth is a coaching legend. He’s been the Tigers’ coach since 1984, and he is the second-winningest coach in Pennsylvania history with a record of 443-64-2. He’s seventh in wins among active coaches in the country.
The Tigers are looking for a state threepeat at 2A and their fourth state title in the last five years. The Tigers are 41 points away from breaking the 2007 Jeannette team of Terrelle Pryor for most points in a season with 860. Southern Columbia has outscored its opponents, 820-75. The Tigers also feature 6-2, 200-pound senior wide receiver Julian Fleming, ESPN’s No. 1 recruit heading to Ohio State.
Beating Southern Columbia will be a monumental task for Avonworth, which will be making its first state finals appearance. The Antelopes will counter Southern Columbia’s explosiveness by pounding senior tailback Jax Miller, who’s rushed for over 900 in the playoffs, including a pair of 200-yard games.
Class 3A Saturday 12-noon
(D-2) Wyoming Area Warriors (13-1) vs. (D-7) Central Valley Warriors (13-1)
Wyoming Area beat defeated Tamaqua, 21-0, to reach the state finals, led by quarterback Dominic DeLuca, running back Darren Rodney, who rushed for 135 yards on 23 carries, and wide receiver Brian Williams. This will be Wyoming Area’s first appearance in the state championship. Wyoming Area has outscored its opponents, 531-158, this season.
The Central Valley was established in 2010 through a voluntary merger between the Center Area School District and the Monaca School District. The Warriors started play in 2010, winning the WPIAL 3A championship in their inaugural season. This will be Central Valley’s second trip to the PIAA 3A state finals. The Warriors lost Philadelphia powerhouse Archbishop Wood in 2014, 33-14. Central Valley has outscored its opponents 542 to 147, averaging 38.7 points a game against 10.5.
Class 4A Thursday 7 p.m.
(D-2) Dallas Mountaineers (15-0) vs. (D-7) Thomas Jefferson Jaguars (15-0)
Thomas Jefferson has scored 693 and given up a mere 62 points this season, allowing opponents a meager 4.1 points a game. It’s the first time the Jaguars will be playing in the state finals since 2008. Jefferson won three state championships during a span of 2004-08, and won by mercy rule, 44-2, over Lampeter-Strasburg in the state semifinals. In that game, the Jags’ defense held Lampeter-Strasburg’s offense scoreless, while intercepting four passes and giving up only 120 total yards, and six yards rushing. Offensively, the Jaguars have scored 50 or more points five times this season. The Jags’ Dylan Mallozzi and quarterback Shane Stump proved a dangerous duo in the state semis, combining to run and pass for five TDs.
The Mountaineers, a 56-28 winner against Jersey Shore in the other semifinal, have plowed through opponents with the same type of explosive offense, scoring 659 points, averaging 43.9 points a game, while giving up a slightly higher average of 12 points a game. Dallas’ defense has two shutouts and given up more than 30 points once, in a 42-35 shootout over District 12 powerhouse Imhotep Charter in the state quarterfinals. In Dallas’ 56-28 state semi win over Jersey Shore, Lenny Kelley rushed for 290 yards and five touchdowns, while quarterback Michael Starbuck threw three touchdown passes.
The last time Dallas reached the state finals was as a 2A school, when the Mountaineers won the 2A state title in 1993, beating District 7 champion Washington, 31-7. The 1993 team was also the last Dallas team that went 15-0.
Class 5A Friday at 7 p.m.
(D-1) Cheltenham Panthers (14-1) vs. (D-12) Archbishop Wood Vikings (10-3)
This is not the Archbishop Wood teams of the past, with talent oozing from every area of the field. This version of the Vikings reach the state final using some grit and determination, and crazy smarts of coach Kyle Adkins, who’s found players like senior kicker Rob Meyer who was cut from the soccer team and looking for another sport to play. Meyer wound up booting a 25-yard field goal with 0:03 left to beat powerful Gateway, 24-21, in the PIAA Class 5A semifinals. The Vikings do have tradition on their side. Wood is looking for its sixth state title in nine years, while everything this year is a first for Cheltenham.
A first 14-win season. A first PIAA District 1 5A title. A first state playoff victory—and a first trip to the state championship.
The Panthers outscored Cocalico, 56-49, in the state semis to get here.
Cheltenham senior quarterback Adonis Hunter threw for over 250 yards in the shootout win over Cocalico, but Wood’s greater problems will lie with stopping Panthers’ senior tailback Jamir Barnes, who’s rushed for over 1,000 yards and once played for Wood. Cheltenham will need to clamp down on Wood junior tailback Kaelin Costello, who scored on 73- and 95-yard runs against Gateway.
Wood won consecutive 5A titles in 2016 and 2017.
Class 6A Saturday 6 p.m.
(D-12) St. Joseph’s Prep Hawks (11-2) vs. (D-3) Central Dauphin Rams (12-2)
This will be the sixth trip to the state finals in the last seven years for St. Joe’s Prep, which will be looking for its second-straight PIAA 6A championship and third in the last four years. The Hawks will be looking for their fifth state title in the last seven years. The only time Prep didn’t reach the state finals was 2015. The Hawks won Class 4A titles (large schools) in 2013 and 2014, and 6A state crowns in 2016 and 2018. Central Dauphin last played and last won a state title in 2011 as a 4A, with a 14-7 victory over North Penn.
The Hawks reached the finals without their best offensive player in quarterback Kyle McCord and their best defensive player in Jeremiah Trotter Jr. Prep got here with some late magic by junior quarterback Malik Cooper, who threw a game-tying, 12-yard TD to Marvin Harrison Jr. with 0:15 remaining in regulation that forced a 31-24 overtime victory over Pittsburgh Central Catholic in the state semifinals.
Central Dauphin got here by rushing for a 465 yards rushing, averaging 9.48 yards a carry, in pounding Downingtown West during an emphatic 65-44 victory. Rams’ junior tailback Timmy Smith led the way, rushing for a game-high 264 yards on 22 carries and scored four touchdowns Can Smith and the Rams, however, do that to larger, faster St. Joe’s Prep?
The Hawks seem like a team of destiny the way they drove down the field and scored in the final minute against Central Catholic.
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