VALLEY NEWS DISPATCH • SUNDAY, AUGUST 22, 2021 • 5
1. Gateway (5-1)
The Gators seek their third
WPIAL 5A title in five years
after winning in 2019 and ’17.
Their big-play offense got a big
boost when one of the area’s
top young quarterbacks, sophomore
Brad Birch, and his older
brother, senior receiver Brett
Birch, transferred from Jeannette.
2. Penn-Trafford (6-2)
3. Pine-Richland (11-0)
4. Penn Hills (4-4)
5. Peters Township (8-1)
* RECORDS FROM 2020
Gateway, sr., WR/DB
Recruited to Cincinnati at safety,
Body is a two-way star. He has
played a key role since his sophomore
year, catching 42 passes for
731 yards and eight touchdowns
over the past two seasons.
North Hills, sr., WR/DB
Dickerson flashed his explosiveness
last fall with a team-high
nine TDs. Those scoring plays
averaged 52 yards.
Pine-Richland, sr., HB/LB
The Duke recruit was a
difference-maker for a
Pine-Richland team that won
WPIAL and PIAA titles last fall.
He had 60 tackles and two
sacks and also contributed as an
H-back with 23 catches.
Woodland Hills, sr., QB/DB
Williams was the team’s leading
passer and rusher last season.
He passed for 1,019 yards and 14
TDs but also is a playmaker at
safety. Army, Buffalo, Navy and
Western Michigan have offered.
Penn-Trafford, sr., RB/DB
A Wisconsin recruit, Yacamelli
does a little bit of everything
for Penn-Trafford. He rushed for
680 yards, caught 18 passes
and scored 10 touchdowns last
season. He also is a standout
safety and returns kicks.
9.24 Pine-Richland at
The most highly anticipated nonconference
matchup in 2020 was
canceled hours before kickoff
because of covid-19.
10.1 Peters Township at
Upper St. Clair
The race for the Allegheny Six
title appears wide open this fall.
These two contenders meet in
the conference opener.
10.8 Gateway at Penn-Trafford
This Big East matchup also was
canceled in 2020 by a covid
shutdown, leaving the battle for
first place undecided.
Wide receiver Jeremiah Hasley helped Pine-Richland to a PIAA championship last season.
SEASON OF CHANGE
P-R coaching saga part
of reason Class 5A will
have plenty of intrigue
The defending champion has a
new coach. The preseason favorite
has a new quarterback. The
runner-up from last season has
a whole lot of new faces.
Yes, this is a year for change.
Even the playoff format is different
in WPIAL Class 5A this fall
with a 12-team bracket waiting in
the postseason. A classification
that is typically the WPIAL’s
deepest might have been its most
eventful this year.
The most stunning move involved
defending WPIAL and
PIAA champion Pine-Richland.
In April, the school sparked controversy
fired coach Eric Kasperowicz,
a winner of four WPIAL titles
and two state championships
in eight seasons. The decision
came after a school investigation
into claims of hazing and bullying,
Pine-Richland replaced him
with Steve Campos, a former
Seneca Valley assistant and previously
a head coach at Bethany
College from 1993-2001.
“This whole process has been
a little bit of a struggle, but kids
are resilient,” Campos said.
“They just want to play. I steered
the ship, and we didn’t let the
outside attractions disturb us.”
But that wasn’t the only notable
coaching change in 5A.
Franklin Regional coach Greg
Botta retired in January after
27 years. Former Charleroi
coach Lance Getsy was hired to
Preseason favorite Gateway
welcomed talented brothers
Brett and Brad Birch, who moved
into the district in March. They
helped Jeannette win a WPIAL
Class A title last season. The
Gators already were title contenders,
but the Birch brothers
bolster those odds.
Brad Birch, a sophomore quarterback
with a scholarship offer
from Oregon, ranked among the
WPIAL’s top passers. His eligibility
for the fall was in doubt
until the PIAA cleared him in
June, overturning an earlier
WPIAL decision. Older brother
Brett Birch is a standout wide
receiver and defensive back.
If Peters Township wants to
make another run to the WPIAL
finals, the Indians must replace
a talented senior class that graduated
in the spring.
The Indians return only a
handful of starters from a team
that went 8-1, a situation rivals
Upper St. Clair and South Fayette
also understand well. The
Allegheny Six had a number of
senior-heavy lineups last fall.
“A lot of people have asked
how I would seed our conference,”
Peters Township coach
T.J. Plack said. “I really would
have no clue.”
The WPIAL will take the top
four teams from the three conferences
to form a 12-team bracket.
There are 18 teams in 5A, meaning
only six will miss the playoffs.
The four highest-seeded teams
will receive a first-round bye.
A year ago, the WPIAL used
only an eight-team bracket while
addressing covid-19 concerns.
“Last year, it was certainly a
challenge just to make the playoffs
with the trimmed-down
format,” Upper St. Clair coach
Mike Junko said. “It will be good
that there are opportunities out
by CHRIS HARLAN