Five things we learned in Week 3 of high school football

Saturday, September 16, 2017 | 6:18 PM

Mapletown running back Dylan Rush woke up Saturday “a little sore,” but otherwise he still was feeling great.

That's understandable.

The aptly named senior rushed for 524 yards on 39 carries Friday night, a workhorse effort that broke the WPIAL single-game record set last year by Armstrong's Zane Dudek at 492 yards. Rush scored seven times in the 48-32 conference victory over Avella in Class A.

“I never imagined that could ever happen,” said Rush, who also surpassed 5,000 career yards. “The last couple of years I had 387 and 388 yards (in a game). I could never imagine having 400, let alone 500.”

It was the third time in three years that the record fell.

In 2015, Apollo-Ridge's Duane Brown rushed for 460 yards, breaking Connellsville's Marcus Furman's mark from 2000. Now it's Rush, the first WPIAL rusher with a 500-yard game, who holds the record.

“I was surprised that (my total) was that much,” Rush said. “I didn't really feel like it was until the coach mentioned it to us with 5 or 6 minutes left.”

Mapletown coach George Messich learned from his statistician that Rush was 7 yards from the WPIAL record. Rush broke it on the next snap, an 11-yard touchdown run.

“Oh my gosh, he had an incredible night,” Messich said. “It really, really was. But I've said it all along: If our offensive line can get him to the second level, he's capable of doing that. Dylan just has so many God-given moves. Once you get him to that level, it's hard to tackle him in the open field.”

Rush (5-foot-9, 180) had touchdown runs of 10, 55, 70, 72, 42, 64 and 11 yards. The conference game was competitive into the fourth, making the performance all-the-more remarkable in Messich's eyes.

“It would be different if you beat a team by 70 points and you just left the kid in there running and running and running,” said Messich, a 1973 Mapletown graduate who has coached the team for more than 30 years. “There were a lot of times in that football game that we thought: ‘We're in trouble. We're not going to win this game.' And every time you'd think that, he'd break a run for you.”

North Allegheny's Brian Baschnagel, the first WPIAL rusher with a 400-yard performance (409), held the single-game record from 1971 until Laurel Highlands' Jim Smith ran for 413 in 1989. Fort Cherry's Mike Vernillo had 424 yards in 1997, Hempfield's Matt Steve rushed for 446 in 1999 and Furman had 455 in 2000.

“Whenever we got back into the locker room and onto the bus, I turned on my phone,” Rush said, “and I had a ton of text messages, phone calls, snapchats from friends and family members just telling me congratulations.”

Good matchups on paper often times get shredded

If any WPIAL team can challenge Pine-Richland, it might come in the next two weeks. The WPIAL's top-ranked Class 6A team earned another lopsided win Friday, a 43-6 victory over previously unbeaten Penn Hills.

No team has come within three touchdowns of the top-ranked Rams, who have outscored opponents 179-42. But next on Pine-Richland's schedule is a trip to No. 3 Bethel Park, and then a visit from No. 2 Central Catholic in Week 5.

It's never too early to study playoff picture

South Fayette remains the team to beat in the Northwest Nine, but there's a four-way tie for second after Mars defeated Montour, 26-15, on Friday. Mars, Montour, Highlands and New Castle are 2-1.

Only four teams from each conference make the WPIAL playoffs, so that slim margin for error has teams uncomfortable.

“We dropped one to South Fayette, so we have to win the rest,” Mars coach Scott Heinhauer said. “We tell our kids that all the time. We want to make the playoffs. You can ensure that by winning the rest of your conference games.”

Gators don't always stick exclusively to the ground

Gateway has one of the most dynamic quarterback-receiver combination in the WPIAL this season: Brady Walker and Courtney Jackson. The two teammates combined for three more touchdowns Friday on receptions of 75, 10 and 70 yards in a 54-13 victory over Armstrong. The duo has combined for seven touchdowns in four games.

Jackson had 272 yards on seven receptions Friday, which included a 67-yarder from backup quarterback Brendan Majocha in the third quarter.

Coaching change hasn't slowed Quakers

Quaker Valley switched head coaches just before the season, yet the team looks like a playoff contender in the Beaver Valley Conference behind quarterback Ricky Guss. The senior had a hand in 36 of the Quakers' 45 points Friday. Guss rushed for four touchdowns, threw a touchdown and two 2-point passes and ran for another conversion in Friday's 45-21 victory over Beaver.

Quaker Valley finished 5-4 last year and missed the playoffs but is 4-0 under Jerry Veshio. The Quakers visit Central Valley (3-1, 1-0) in Week 4.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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