Derry’s Justin Flack named Westmoreland Tribune-Review Football Player of the Year
By: Paul Schofield
Saturday, December 22, 2018 | 7:33 PM
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
RB/QB/DB, Senior, 5-foot-8, 160 pounds, Derry Area
Justin Flack’s senior season turned out better than he or anyone expected.
The Derry senior running back said he never dreamed rushing for 1,334 yards and scoring 38 touchdowns.
Because of injuries to Colton Nemcheck and Justin Huss in the summer, and an injury to Onreey Stewart in Week 4, Flack was called on to carry the load in the backfield, and he responded the way coach Tim Sweeney expected.
“He was a college player playing high school football,” Sweeney said. “College coaches should be lined up to sign this kid; he’s that good.”
Flack did a little bit of everything for the Trojans. He was the quarterback in the ‘Wildcat’ formation, completing 5 of 15 passes for 53 yards. He caught a team-high 10 passes for 275 yards and was outstanding on defense, intercepting five passes and returning two for touchdowns.
Flack helped lead Derry to a Class 3A Big East Conference title, its third championship in three years, and his interception return against North Catholic with 1:20 left rallied the Trojans to a 34-27 victory in the WPIAL semifinals.
They advanced to the WPIAL Class 3A finals for the first time in school history.
For his performance this season, Flack is the Westmoreland Tribune-Review Football Player of the Year.
Derry’s Dom DeLuca, Ligonier Valley’s Aaron Tutino and Yough’s Dustin Shoaf also were in the running.
Can you summarize your senior season?
I didn’t expect to carry the ball so much this year because usually we spread the ball out. But there were a couple different injuries so I had to carry the load.
What was it like to rally for the semifinal win over North Catholic?
The feeling is incredible. When you’re down 25-7 and you make a comeback like that. I think a lot of people thought we were out of it, but we just continued to battle.
How about the interception return for a touchdown?
Everyone is calling it a Troy Polamalu return. They strung with a flat pass at the end of the first half, and I thought they’d go back to that. So I read it pretty well. The runback, and we do pursuit, and anytime we get the football you never want to get in the middle because that’s where the linemen are. So I used my speed and scored a touchdown.
What was it like playing in the championship game at Heinz Field?
Growing up you always want to play where your idols play; getting there wasn’t our goal. We just didn’t want to make it to Heinz Field; we wanted to go to Hershey. Playing at that venue was pretty cool.
Do any games stick out this season?
The North Catholic game was the most memorable one. It was the best feeling.
What was special about this team?
It was the close bond we had. Early in the summer, it took us awhile to get going because the commit level wasn’t there. Once we got into camp, we formed a close bond, which was different from the past.
Jeannette, WR/S, Sr., 6-4, 185
This William & Mary recruit had 32 catches for 555 yards and nine touchdowns. He also was a playmaker on defense. He had a crucial interception in a win over Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and helped lead the Jayhawks to a conference title by defeating Clairton.
Southmoreland, WR, Sr., 6-1, 175
Comforti had a huge season on offense for the Scotties. He turned out to be Zach Cernuto’s top target, catching 47 passes for 714 yards and six touchdowns. He also was an outstanding defensive back.
Jeannette, G/LB, Jr., 6-0, 195
Cramer was the leading tackler for the Jayhawks, recording more than 100 this season. He also anchored an offensive line that helped Jeannette average 33.8 points. Cramer also is a talented wrestler as part of a co-op with Hempfield.
Derry, LB/FB, Sr., 6-5, 225
DeLuca was a dominating defensive player who put pressure on opposing offenses and quarterbacks. He also rushed for 262 yards, caught five passes for 40 yards and scored four touchdowns. He also has Division I offers in both football and wrestling. He finished second in the state at 220 pounds in 2018.
Hempfield, LB, Jr., 5-11, 225
Ferretti was the Spartans’ leading tackler. He is a three-sport athlete who also excels in wrestling and in track as a thrower. He’s getting Division 1 interest as a thrower.
Greensburg C.C., Sr., OL, 6-0, 255
Hogan was a dominating offensive lineman who earned Eastern Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year honors. GCC had a solid season, going 7-3, and averaging 30 points per game, but missed the playoffs. He also was a strong defensive player.
Latrobe, OL/DL, Sr., 6-3, 290
This East Carolina offensive line recruit shined on defense. He had 32 tackles, eight sacks, eight tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. He also was a dominating offensive lineman for the Wildcats.
Ligonier Valley, OL/DL, Jr., 6-5, 240
Jablonski was a dominating defensive player with 55 tackles, five sacks and two fumble recoveries. He tied Blake Bridge for the team lead with 16 tackles for losses. He is starting to get some Division I interest.
Franklin Regional, LB, Jr., 6-2, 235
Johns was used in many different ways for the Panthers on offense. He had three catches for 46 yards and rushed for 73 yards. He made his impact on defense by leading the team in tackles with 122. He also had three sacks.
Mt. Pleasant, WR/DB, Jr., 6-2, 175
Even though the Vikings had a tough season, Johnson had a solid year. He caught 43 passes for 911 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. He also lined up at quarterback and rushed for 241 yards.
Penn-Trafford, RB/LB, Jr., 6-0, 195
Lisbon rushed for 1,329 yards and scored 19 touchdowns. He also had 14 catches for 258 yards. He also was a solid defensive player for the Warriors.
Ligonier Valley, RB/LB, Jr., 5-9, 190
Miller rushed for 1,561 yards, caught 10 passes for 93 yards and scored 24 touchdowns. He also had 46 tackles and one interception on defense for the Rams.
Derry, LB/RB, Sr., 6-0, 185
Nemcheck missed the early part of the season while recovering from an injury. He still rushed for 484 yards and scored four touchdowns. He also was a stalwart on defense and played a key role in getting the Trojans to the WPIAL Class 3A title game.
Belle Vernon, RB, Sr., 5-7, 170
The shifty running back rushed for 1,538 yards and scored 17 touchdowns for the Leopards. He also caught four passes for 47 yards and was a dangerous return specialist.
Ligonier Valley, OL/DL, Jr., 6-2, 275
Petrof is a two-way starter who dominates the line of scrimmage. He recorded 70 tackles, 12 tackles for losses and eight sacks. He also had eight quarterback hurries and is getting Division I interest.
Jeannette, WR/DB, Jr., 6-1, 178
Pruitt was a big-play defensive back for the Jayhawks. He had five interceptions and returned two for scores. He also had 14 catches for 303 yards and five touchdowns.
Norwin, WR/DB, Sr., 6-2, 197
Rizzo lined up at different positions on offense. Despite battling an ankle injury, he caught 21 passes for 542 yards, rushed for 139 yards and led the team with 12 touchdowns. He signed with Youngstown State.
Penn-Trafford, LB/TE, Sr., 6-1, 210
Rosso was a defensive leader for the Warriors. He had 93 tackles, three sacks, three interceptions and forced two fumbles. He also had eight catches for 117 yards and a touchdown.
Franklin Regional, QB, Sr., 6-1, 192
Rudzinski was the Panthers’ MVP. He completed 76 of 168 passes for 1,444 yards and 19 touchdowns. He helped the Panthers reach the WPIAL Class 5A quarterfinals.
Derry, C, Sr., 6-1, 250
Shawley anchored an offensive line that helped Justin Flack and Onreey Stewart each rush for more than 1,000 yards. The Trojans rushed for more than 3,800 yards as a team.
Yough, RB/S, Sr., 6-2, 210
Shoaf, the Class 3A Big East Conference MVP, rushed for 1,968 yards, caught three passes for 30 yards and scored 18 touchdowns. He also made 83 tackles and had a sack and two fumble recoveries.
Norwin, S/RB, Sr., 5-10, 186
Thrift, a preferred walk-on at West Virginia, earned all-conference honors as a defensive back. The ‘Hitman’ plans to plan safety at West Virginia. He recently de-committed from Youngstown State.
Ligonier Valley, WR/DB, Sr., 5-11, 170
The St. Francis (Pa.) recruit and state record holder in career touchdown receptions (61), Tutino notched a third consecutive 1,000-yard season. He had 66 catches for 1,363 yards and 21 touchdowns. Tutino finished his career with 206 catches for 4,120 yards.
Greensburg Salem, WR/DB, Sr., 6-0, 165
Williams led the Golden Lions with 19 catches for 253 yards. He scored four touchdowns and intercepted five passes, returning two for scores. He helped the Golden Lions reach the WPIAL playoffs.
Belle Vernon: Anthony Bertram, LB; Larry Callaway, RB; Eric Oblak, DL; Collin Pallotta, DL; Anthony Rebar, LB
Derry: Gavin Adams, T; Bastien Anderson, LB; Max Malis, OL; Onreey Stewart, RB
Franklin Regional: Mike Evans, WR; Nick Leopold WR
Greensburg C.C.: Max Pisula, QB
Greensburg Salem: Dajauhn Hertzog, DB; Billy McChesney OL; Trent Patrick, QB; Aaren Putt, RB; Ken Shea, LB; Ryan Thomas, TE/P
Hempfield: Finton Brose, T; Nathan Roby, RB
Jeannette: Seth Howard, QB; Drake Petrillo, DE
Latrobe: Zakharee Williams, RB
Ligonier Valley: Zach Beitel, WR/DB; Blake Bridge, DL; John Caldwell, QB; Sam Sheeder, QB/WR/LB; Wylie Spiker, DE
Monessen: Vaughn Taylor, LB; Devin Whitlock, QB
Mt. Pleasant: Jake Fazekas, TE/LB
Norwin: Zek Houser, RB; Tanner Krevokuch, TE; Jack Salopek, QB
Penn-Trafford: Gabe Dunlap, QB; Dimitri George, WR
Southmoreland: Zach Cernuto, QB; Ron Robinson, RB
Yough: Mason Brunson, DB; Russell Pytlak, DE
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.
Tags: Belle Vernon, Derry Area, Franklin Regional, Greensburg C.C., Greensburg-Salem, Hempfield, Jeannette, Latrobe, Ligonier Valley, Monessen, Mt. Pleasant, Norwin, Penn-Trafford, Southmoreland, Yough