Elite QBs highlight West roster for PSFCA East-West Game
By: Chris Harlan
Saturday, May 5, 2018 | 8:39 PM
If the PSFCA East-West Game becomes a shootout, coach Eric Kasperowicz has two quarterbacks accustomed to big numbers.
South Fayette's Drew Saxton and Selinsgrove's Logan Leiby combined for 189 career touchdown passes and more than 17,000 yards. The two will share quarterback duties for Kasperowicz in the annual all-star game Sunday in Altoona.
Kickoff is 2 p.m. at Mansion Park Stadium.
“It's all man-to-man (defense) with seven in the box,” Kasperowicz said, “so you've got to be able to throw it.”
As a senior last fall, Saxton passed for 2,749 yards and 33 touchdowns. The Case Western Reserve recruit ranks 16th in state history and sixth in the WPIAL with 7,452 career yards. He has 94 career touchdowns.
“Drew has been awesome,” said Kasperowicz, Pine-Richland's coach. “You can tell he's a real smart, savvy kid, well-coached. We run a similar offensive scheme to what South Fayette does, so it kind of meshes up well.”
Leiby threw for 3,776 yards and 42 touchdowns for Selinsgrove, the District 4 champion in Class 4A. The Bloomsburg recruit will graduate as the third-leading passer in PIAA history with 9,846 yards. His 95 career touchdowns rank seventh best all-time.
“Behind Phil (Jurkovec), Leiby was one of the most prolific guys in the state,” Kasperowicz said. “His receiver (Jarrett Inch) is playing with him, too, so that will be a nice little combination to keep an eye on.”
Kasperowicz hasn't named a starter but said he plans to rotate the two quarterbacks, possibly by quarter. The West will feature a scaled-down version of the no-huddle offense Kasperowicz uses at Pine-Richland.
Saxton sees similarities between the passing attacks used by South Fayette and Pine-Richland, two of the most successful offenses in the WPIAL. But transitioning from one to the other required learning a new “language” in a short period of time.
“It's a different (football) language. Maybe it's like Latin at Pine-Richland and Spanish at South Fayette, but there are a lot of the same concepts and schemes,” Kasperowicz said. “They've picked it up incredibly quick. I spoke to those guys even prior to practicing and sent them some of the stuff we're going to be doing, so they can kind of get a head start on it.”
The team practiced the last two Sundays in April and again Saturday at Mansion Park Stadium.
“It has its learning curve,” Saxton said. “Coach Kasper has a great system that's been proven at the highest level in the WPIAL. He just gave us some simple things that me and Logan could really pick up on. … We went into practice, and 30 minutes later, we were running the offense.”
The West roster is heavy with WPIAL talent, including some receivers Saxton and Leiby will target. Among them are North Allegheny's John Vardzel, Central Catholic's Cam Laconi, Montour's Ronnie Stevenson and Thomas Jefferson's Garret Fairman.
“The first practice was obviously a little tough just getting the timing down,” Saxton said. “The second practice we were clicking. Everyone's fast out there, that's the thing. They move with speed. They're quick in and out of their cuts. You've got to get the ball out a little earlier, for sure.”
The running backs are Penn Hills' Tim Smith and Bethel Park's Tanner Volpatti. Jeannette's Robert Kennedy is listed as a defensive back on the West roster but will be used on offense, as well.
“Robert is absolutely explosive, so I'm excited to see what he can do,” Kasperowicz said. “If he doesn't touch the ball 10 times, shame on me.”
This will be the 17th East-West Game, which is organized by the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association. The West won 17-14 last year, but the East leads the all-time series 10-6.
The all-star game started in 2001 and was played each spring since, except for 2010 when sponsorship issues led the PSFCA to skip a year.
The game has made Altoona its home for the second consecutive year after bouncing between Gateway (2012), Franklin Regional (2014), Cupples Stadium (2016) and Downingtown (2013, 2015).
The 34-player West roster has 22 from the WPIAL.