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Football: 2016 North Season Preview

Written by John D'Abruzzo on .

With the WPIAL adopting the state's six-classification setup for high school football in 2016, the entire gridiron landscape looks dramatically different. Nevertheless, fans of teams in the Post-Gazette's North coverage area should still expect to see some traditional rivalries and the usual Friday night thrills.

Butler, North Allegheny, Pine-Richland, Seneca Valley and Shaler, which all participated in the Northern Eight Conference last year, are staying together in Class 6A's Northern Seven Conference. Defending state champion Central Catholic and Penn Hills make up the rest of the conference. The Post-Gazette put Central Catholic at No. 1 with Pine-Richland and North Allegheny following, respectively, in its annual preseason rankings. One player to definitely look out for will be Phil Jurkovec. Pine-Richland's junior quarterback was electric in his first year as a starter last season by throwing for more than 2,500 yards and rushing for close to 1,300 yards. Jurkovec, however, is one of just four returning starters for the Rams. North Allegheny is also hoping to compete in this mega-conference. The Tigers welcome back a wealth of experience on both of offense and defense.

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Football: 2016 North Players to Watch

Written by John D'Abruzzo on .

Here are some football players to watch from the North area this season.

Phil Jurkovec, Pine-Richland, Jr., QB - Earned Fab 22 honors and finished his sophomore campaign with 2,575 passing yards and 20 touchdowns.

Nick Santucci, North Hills, Sr., WR - Caught 35 passes and collected 426 receiving yards as a junior.

Jack Cook, Seneca Valley, Sr., QB - Completed 109 of 186 passes for 1,597 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Francis Duggan, North Allegheny, Jr., LB - The only underclassman on defense to be voted first team of the Northern Eight Conference.

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Boys Soccer: 2016 North Season Preview

Written by Nicholas Tolomeo on .

Seneca Valley reached the 2015 PIAA 3A championship. Now the Raiders are in the newly formed 4A. Mars reached the 2015 WPIAL 2A championship. Now the Planets are in 3A. There will be some consistency in 1A, where Sewickley Academy will be able to defend its WPIAL and PIAA titles from last season.

Starting with Seneca Valley, the Raiders will have to replace most of their team that won 18 games. Goalie Luke Pecora, defenders Macen DiPaolo and Jake King and forwards Matt Saluga, Adam Mascio, Griffin Mathew and Gage Blitzer all graduated. That could open the door and create a tightly contested Section 1-4A, where Butler, North Allegheny, North Hills, Pine-Richland and Shaler will compete with Seneca Valley for the inaugural title. North Allegheny junior forward John Luchini has a familiar last name among North Allegheny, and Pine-Richland senior midfielder Carlo Tozzi and Butler sophomore midfielder Tate Mohney are players to watch, as well.

Fox Chapel is a preseason favorite in Section 3-4A with senior forward Michael Snowball and junior forward Carson Cohen back. The Foxes will compete with new section rivals Allderdice, Brashear, Central Catholic, Penn Hills, Plum and Woodland Hills.

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Boys Soccer: 2016 North Players to Watch

Written by Joe Greiner on .

Here are some boys soccer players from the North to keep an eye on this season.

Michael Snowball, Fox Chapel, Senior, Forward
Owen Harkins, Quaker Valley, Senior, Defender
John Luchini, North Allegheny, Junior, Forward
Carlo Tozzi, Pine-Richland, Senior, Midfielder
Tate Mohney, Butler, Sophomore, Midfielder
Josh Arch, Hampton, Senior, Defender
Carson Cohen, Fox Chapel, Junior, Forward
Caleb Brake, Mars, Senior, Defender
Mike Napoleone, Sewickley Academy, Senior, Midfielder
Patrick Hill-Junke, Shady Side Academy, Senior, Midfielder
Brendan Brazinski, Shady Side Academy, Senior, Midfielder
Ian Rodgers, Quaker Valley, Junior, Forward
Justin Pryor, Sewickley Academy, Senior, Forward
Landon Grant, Quaker Valley, Junior, Midfielder
Patrick Banze, Vincentian, Sophomore, Defender
Nathan Paras, C.W. North Catholic, Sophomore, Goalkeeper
Vincenzo Schiano-diCola, St. Joseph, Senior, Midfielder

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Girls Soccer: 2016 North Season Preview

Written by Nicholas Tolomeo on .

Mars had been a program that was always on the cusp of greatness in Class 3A and a dominant dynasty in 2A. That was the three-classification WPIAL. Now with girls soccer adopting four classifications, Mars finds itself in a more fitting home - 3A. The Planets won the WPIAL 2A title last year, their fifth all time and fourth in the past six years. This season Mars will compete in Section 1 with Franklin Regional, Gateway, Hampton, Indiana, Knoch and McKeesport. Senior forward Tori Kopchak headlines the returners for the Planets. She netted seven hat tricks last season and finished with 37 goals and 10 assists.

Pine-Richland, North Allegheny and Seneca Valley will be able to settle their three-way tie for the Section 2-3A title in the newly formed Section 1-4A. The Rams, Tigers and Raiders will be joined by former section rivals Butler, North Hills and Shaler. It will be a section loaded with star power thanks to three Pine-Richland seniors - forward Amanda Kalin, defender Chrissy Ciarrocca and goalie Ingrida Ivaska - Butler junior forward Brittnie Spithaler, Shaler senior midfielder Josie Fenn, North Hills senior midfielder Danielle McNally and North Allegheny senior goalie Cara Schwartz.