After pulling off a mildly-surprising season thus far as the lone remaining undefeated Class AAAA in the WPIAL, the Gateway Gators find themselves in a position where they are very comfortable - ranked No. 1 in the state.
In the most recent RivalsHigh 100 rankings, released earlier this week, the Gators climbed to No. 39, passing up the formerly top-ranked team in the state, North Penn.
North Penn is ranked No. 42 in this week's poll, just three back of the team that last year rose as high as No. 4 in the RivalsHigh rankings.
Bishop McDevitt slips to No. 3 in the state, with a national ranking at No. 55.
And the lone Class AAA team from the state in the rankings, Thomas Jefferson, remains steady at No. 76.
Thus, this week's PaPreps Top 10 looks a little bit different than before. And with just two weeks remaining in most teams' regular seasons, it's down to crunch time.
1. Gateway (7-0)
The Gators are coming off their first true test of the season, knocking off a feisty Erie McDowell squad, 35-17, rebounding after a first half that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette described as "lethargic."
Gateway hosts winless Connellsville this weekend before traveling for a WPIAL final week showdown with conference foe McKeesport.
2. North Penn (7-0)
After a 43-13 drumming of Quakertown last weekend, the Knights appear to still be in tip-top shape. But their next gamescould prove to be definitive of the true talent of the team.
Friday night, the Knights host conference foe Souderton, which although at 4-3 overall is 4-0 in the Continental.
3. Bishop McDevitt (7-0)
The Crusaders well ... cruised ... past Chambersburg , 47-7, last week en route to maintaining their perfect season.
And while Carlisle at 2-5 might not be a huge challenge for McDevitt this week, the following Friday night the Crusaders travel to formerly ranked State College (6-1) for what should be a huge showdown.
4. Thomas Jefferson (7-0)
The buzz surrounding the Cougars ... other than their 44-game winning streak ... is awe at how the team continuously seems to reload season after season after season.
On Thursday night, TJ knocked off previously undefeated Chartiers Valley, 20-0, in a game that was much closer than the final score indicated, as the Cougars clung to a 6-0 lead into the fourth quarter before pulling away at the end. The Colts were playing without star sophomore QB Wayne Capers, lost for the rest of the season due to injury.
The Class AAA WPIAL powerhouse is sitting pretty again this year, although Hopewell (7-0) could prove to be a formidable challenger to a fourth consecutive district title.
5. Woodland Hills (6-1)
The Wolverines are seemingly the forgotten team in the WPIAL and in Class AAAA in general this year, but have scored some big-time wins, including handing Bethel Park its lone loss of the year and knocking off then highly-touted Pittsburgh Central Catholic.
Woody High's lone loss of the year came in Week 1 in a matchup against perennial Ohio powerhouse Steubenville, 13-0. Other than that, the Wolverines have run the table in the WPIAL ... yet no one seems to be paying attention to them as a championship contender.
But, think about it this way. If McKeesport knocks off Gateway on the last week of the WPIAL regular season, and Woodland Hills wins its last two games against Plum and an underachieving Penn Hills squad, it could propel the Wolverines into the top seed in the playoffs.
6. St. Joseph's Prep (5-1)
Yes. They beat McKeesport. They deserve to be ranked higher than McKeesport. Agreed.
The loss to North Penn earlier this year pushes them down below the two WPIAL teams, but that could change with a win over undefeated Cardinal O'Hara this Saturday night.
7. McKeesport (6-1)
After that lone loss to St. Joseph's Prep, the Tigers have rolled through the WPIAL, pitching three shutouts and allowing just 30 points, while racking up 269 points themselves. That averages out to nearly 45 points per game.
McKeesport travels to Hempfield (2-5) this week before its big showdown with Gateway on Oct. 30.
8. Pennsbury (7-0)
Pitching two consecutive massive shutouts - a 41-0 win over Truman and a 44-0 win over Bensalem Township - propels the Falcons into the PaPreps Top 10.
But, just as so many other teams in the Top 10, Pennsbury will face a huge test on the last game of the regular season, hosting Neshaminy (6-1), a team that narrowly missed the rankings.
9. Cardinal O'Hara (7-0)
After blanking Archbishop Ryan, 56-0, last week, marking their third straight shutout, the Lions get their big test this week against St. Joseph's Prep.
Cardinal O'Hara is averaging 36.5 points per game, while allowing just 46 total points on the entire season.
10. Bethel Park (6-1)
The Black Hawks are probably the biggest surprise in the WPIAL this season as absolutely no one picked them to be hovering near the top of the standings after a graduating off a stellar group of seniors from last year's PIAA runner-up team.
Bethel Park's lone loss came at the hands of Woodland Hills by a 4-point margin back in Week 4. But with games against Canon McMillan and Baldwin in the final two weeks of the regular season, it won't be an easy road to 8-1 and a top playoff seeding.
Neshaminy (6-1), State College (6-1), LaSalle (6-1), Hopewell (7-0), Erie McDowell (5-2), Beaver Falls (7-0)