The high school football playoff picture is still murky but could clear up quite a bit after tonight’s Week 8 games are played.
Or some could get even murkier.
The top four teams in each conference qualify for the WPIAL playoffs. Tonight’s slate of games all kick off at 7 p.m.
Even those elite local teams that have already punched their tickets to the postseason haven’t wrapped up conference titles as of yet.
Some teams are caught in between, such as Laurel Highlands. The Mustangs haven’t clinched a playoff spot yet but aren’t out of the Class 4A Big Seven Conference championship chase either.
The Mustangs (3-1, 5-2), who rode another strong performance by Rodney Gallagher to a 20-8 win at Trinity last week, can wrap up a spot in the postseason with a win over visiting Ringgold (0-4, 0-8) or a loss by Connellsville (1-3, 2-6) at Thomas Jefferson (3-1, 5-3) tonight.
Laurel Highlands can still earn a share of first place if it closes the regular season with wins over the Rams and Falcons and McKeesport falls at Latrobe tonight or against visiting Thomas Jefferson next week.
Connellsville is still mathematically in the playoff hunt but would need wins over the Jaguars and then Laurel Highlands next week along with some other help to get in.
In the Class 3A Interstate Conference, Belle Vernon (3-0, 5-2), Elizabeth Forward (3-0, 8-0) and Southmoreland (2-1, 4-4) have all locked up playoff spots and are still alive for first place.
The Leopards host the Scotties at James Weir Stadium while the undefeated Warriors are at Greensburg Salem (0-3, 3-5).
Even if both Belle Vernon and EF lose tonight, the winner of next week’s highly anticipated clash between the two would still earn at least a share of the conference title.
Don’t count on the Leopards looking ahead, though, as coach Matt Humbert is determined to take it one week at a time and make sure his team continues to improve.
“I think it’s all about us staying even keel right now,” Humbert said after his team’s 55-7 win over Mount Pleasant. “We have objectives and we have a systematic approach to it. It’s just on to the next one and I think that’s what the kids gravitate to and believe in.
“The only thing that we’re thinking is we’ve got one more regular season opportunity to protect our Beach, to come out here on a Friday night at the Weir. That’s all the kids are really focused on right now.”
If the Scotties could pull the upset, they could earn a share of first place with a win over rival Mount Pleasant next week and a loss by EF either tonight or to the visiting Leopards in Week 9.
The Vikings (1-2, 4-4) can secure the fourth spot in the conference and a postseason berth with a win over visiting South Allegheny (0-3, 1-7) tonight.
The only thing for sure at this point in the Class 1A Tri-County South Conference is that unbeaten Mapletown (5-0, 8-0) is in the playoffs.
The Maples can clinch at least a share of the conference championship with either a win over second-place Monessen (4-1, 5-3) at home tonight or at West Greene next week.
The explosive Greyhounds, who rang up 70 points in a win over Jefferson-Morgan last week, control their own destiny as wins over Mapletown and then Beth-Center would assure them at least a tie for first place.
On the other hand, Monessen has yet to clinch a playoff spot although it would take a lot to go wrong for it not to get in.
In other TCS games tonight, California (3-2, 6-2) is at Beth-Center (2-3, 3-5), Carmichaels (3-2, 5-3) goes to Bentworth (0-5, 2-6) and West Greene (1-4, 1-7) hosts Jefferson-Morgan (2-3, 4-4).
How cloudy are the conference standings? How about this scenario: losses by the Trojans and Mikes and wins by the Rockets and Bulldogs would create a four-way tie for third place heading into Week 9.
Only the Pioneers and Bearcats have been eliminated from postseason contention.
The three independent local teams — Albert Gallatin, Uniontown and Brownsville — may not have playoff spots to play for but there’s still pride on the line.
Two of those teams play each other as the Colonials (2-5) host the Falcons (0-7). The Red Raiders (4-4) have a tough obstacle in front of them with a road clash against undefeated Berlin Brothersvalley (8-0).
Uniontown can clinch at least a .500 record for the first time in 13 years with a win over the Mountaineers or next week against visiting Carrick.
In the Class 2A Allegheny Conference, Yough (1-4, 2-6) is still mathematically alive for a playoff spot but would need wins over first-place Steel Valley (5-0, 7-0) tonight and Imani Christian next week plus help to make it.
In the Class 2A Century Conference, Charleroi (0-4, 1-6) hosts Brentwood (1-3, 2-6) and Waynesburg Central (0-4, 0-8) is at Sto-Rox (5-0, 5-2).
In the Class 1A Eastern Conference, Frazier (1-4, 1-7) hosts Clairton (3-1, 3-5).
The Cougars, Raiders and Commodores have all been eliminated from the playoff race.
(Westley Burchianti contributed to this story.)