Phil Jurkovec hadn’t eaten much in days, weak from an illness that hit Pine-Richland’s roster at a terrible time.
But with the Rams one win away from Hershey, the senior quarterback still threw two touchdowns and rushed for another in Saturday afternoon’s 28-7 victory over Manheim Township in a PIAA Class 6A semifinal at Mansion Park Stadium.
“Phil, I think he had one day of practice this whole week,” coach Eric Kasperowicz said. “He’s horrible. I can’t tell you how proud I am of him.”
The victory earns Pine-Richland (15-0) its first trip to the state final since 2014. The Rams will face defending state champion St. Joseph’s Prep (13-0) next Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium. Kickoff is 6 p.m.
“We’ve had a bunch of guys sick,” Jurkovec said. “I don’t know exactly what it is, but I’ve been sick for the past week. That’s why coming up here today, I’m happy with the way I played because I knew it wasn’t going to be my best performance.”
This 243-yard passing performance won’t rank among his best statistically, but that didn’t matter as the Rams celebrated with Hershey’s chocolate bars.
Pine-Richland’s defense forced five turnovers, so the Rams didn’t need a 400-yard day from the Notre Dame recruit. Instead, Jurkovec completed 20 of 33 passes and threw touchdowns.
Pine-Richland’s coaches had prepared a wildcat package just in case Jurkovec wasn’t available, and they had their backup quarterback handle two full days of practice. Jurkovec didn’t ride the team bus, and Kasperowicz wasn’t certain he’d play until Saturday.
“Everybody knows nothing would keep him from playing this football game,” Kasperowicz said, “but it was dicey there for awhile.”
Pine-Richland led 13-0 at half Saturday after Jurkovec threw first-half touchdowns to Raymond Falcone (6 yards) and Jordan Crawford (33 yards).
A 15-yard touchdown run by Grayson Sallade pulled Manheim Township within 13-7 with 5:38 left in the third. But Pine-Richland took control with consecutive rushing touchdowns by Crawford and Jurkovec in a 42-second span.
In between the Rams’ touchdowns, Manheim Township lost one of its four fumbles.
“I knew I’d be able to play, but how strong would I be?” Jurkovec said. “I was so weak from not eating. … I felt real drained and tired but still able to throw. I definitely felt it out there.”