5 takeaways from Week Zero of high school football action
Saturday, August 24, 2019 | 8:30 PM
Two hundred yards is a good night for any WPIAL passer, but nowadays that’s not enough for some quarterbacks.
Thomas Jefferson’s Shane Stump, Washington’s Zack Swartz and Pine-Richland’s Cole Spencer all topped the 200-yard passing mark while also rushing for more than 100 in Week Zero victories Friday night.
They’re among a new group of elite dual-threat quarterbacks winning games with their arms and legs.
“It all mimics the NFL,” Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak said. “It (filters) down through college and high school. That’s what the trend is now: the dual-threat guy who can run and throw. You still have your 6-4 strong-armed guys, but more and more you see guys who are just good athletes who can do both.
“In high school you have very few of those,” Cherpak said, “so you want the ball in their hands as much as possible.”
Stump completed 11 of 24 attempts for 294 yards while rushing for 120 yards in a 54-10 victory over Canon-McMillan. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior is one of the fastest runners on his team, but the Jaguars haven’t asked him to run much in years past.
Stump rushed for a total of 115 yards last season.
This year, Stump is calling more plays at the line of scrimmage, and one option he has is to keep the ball and run. He needed only five carries to top 100 yards Friday with an 80-yard touchdown run. Two were designed runs, including the 80-yarder, and the three others were scrambles.
“He can run,” Cherpak said. “If he gets out in space, they’re not going to catch him. … We’ve given him a lot of freedom to call whatever he sees at the ball.”
Swartz threw for 202 yards on 15 of 22 passing and ran for 120 as Washington defeated Laurel Highlands, 48-21.
Spencer had 203 passing yards, completing 17 of 27 throws, and 116 yards rushing in a 21-0 victory over Penn Hills.
2. Keeping a secret
Sometimes coaches keep their secret weapons secret. Sometimes they’d rather show everybody right away and make future opponents worry.
Consider Pine-Richland’s decision to onside kick.
The Rams scored on the opening possession Friday night, immediately recovered an onside kick and quickly scored again in a 21-0 victory over Penn Hills. Kicker Zach Waryanka recovered his own kick. The onside decision was strategic, for that moment and maybe for later in the season.
“We want to attack in all phases and make teams be weary of that stuff,” Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz said. “Put it on film early, and now teams have got to be ready for it.”
Much the same way Pine-Richland spent time this week preparing for a 2-point conversion play Penn Hills runs. The Indians were shut out, so they never had a chance to try it.
“They run this wacko formation, and we took freakin’ 10 minutes two days practicing it,” Kasperowicz said. “We had to prepare for it.”
But Kasperowicz didn’t think seeing the onside kick on film would surprise too many teams.
“If people don’t know that about us by now, then they don’t watch much tape,” he said.
3. Class 5A deep again
The WPIAL’s deepest classification last season was arguably Class 5A ,and that doesn’t seem to have changed.
Gateway, Peters Township and Penn-Trafford, the top teams in the Trib rankings, celebrated dominant Week Zero wins. They outscored opponents 133-27. But a few other teams, including Upper St. Clair and Mars, also made strong season debuts.
Led by Josh Casilli and Ryan Magiske with two touchdowns each, Peters Township defeated Fox Chapel, 45-0. Gateway defeated Mt. Lebanon, 46-20, with four touchdowns from Derrick Davis. Penn-Trafford won 42-7 over Norwin with three touchdowns from Caleb Lisbon.
4. Mapletown celebrates
Mapletown had waited almost two years, so Friday night’s victory was reason to celebrate. The Maples ended a 16-game losing streak with a 29-6 victory over Avella.
“It was just a great win for us,” coach George Messich said. “We started three freshmen and four sophomores. We’re pretty young, but it’s a good group of kids. For them to start their season with a win, I think it was huge for them.”
The team’s last win was Sept. 15, 2017, also against Avella.
Avella and Mapletown, who share a Class A conference, will play again in Week 8 at Avella. It’s the second year in a row the two small schools played a home-and-home series.
Their enrollments are tied as fourth smallest in the state. In the latest PIAA enrollment numbers, Mapletown and Avella each listed 61 boys in Grades 9-11.
“When I look at Avella and then look at Mapletown, it’s like looking at the same school,” Messich said. “We’ve always had good competition with each other. We’re real good friends with the coaches. Their players are just like ours, and we always match up good.
“I told (Avella coach) Ryan Cecchini, if we played 10 games every year, we’d probably be 5-5 and everybody would be happy.”
5. Home-field advantage
When it comes to schools with a home-field advantage, Aschman Stadium in Aliquippa or Thomas Jefferson’s Jaguar Stadium come to mind.
But what about South Fayette’s field?
Friday’s loss to Upper St. Clair was South Fayette’s first regular-season home loss in eight years. The last regular-season opponent to win there was Seton LaSalle on Oct. 21, 2011.
The Lions lost at home to New Castle in the 2016 playoffs, but they had won 34 in a row in the regular season.
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .