Greensburg Central Catholic’s Kurpiel could catch on at St. Francis

Sunday, February 24, 2019 | 7:32 PM

Greensburg Central Catholic senior Bryce Kurpiel is a unique case in the recruiting game.

He had no scholarship offers for football, yet could end up on a Division I Football Championship Subdivision roster next season.

Here’s his story:

Kurpiel, who is from Ligonier, wanted to attend a college that offered a five-year physician’s assistant program.

St. Francis (Pa.) satisfied that requirement, so Kurpiel opted to apply there.

He got in. But somehow, Red Flash football coaches discovered he had potential as a wide receiver at GCC and decided to take a chance on him. Much to his surprise, they offered him a preferred walk-on opportunity.

He can try out for the team. If he makes it, he can earn a scholarship down the road.

“They asked me to play football,” Kurpiel said. “After my injuries the past two years, I didn’t think I would get any interest.”

He had a concussion as a sophomore, pulled his hamstring as a junior and broke his leg as a senior. “Honestly, when I broke my leg I thought I was completely done,” he said. “But I just tried to push through and played with what I had.”

He missed 13 games, seven this past season.

But he worked hard to walk, jog, run again and, “Right now, I am perfectly healthy,” he said.

Kurpiel had an offer from Seton Hill for baseball, arguably his “main” sport, but he had all but discarded football.

Suddenly, he has a rekindled drive to return to the gridiron.

“I’ve dedicated a lot of time to the game and really appreciate that opportunity to show off my skill,” he said. “My dad always says to never pass up opportunity. And this is a huge one for me.”

All-section picks

The Big 5/6 Conference, which follows and recognizes schools in the WPIAL’s two largest classifications, released its all-section teams. Westmoreland County was well represented. In Section 1-6A, seniors Reed Fenton and Bryce Butler of Latrobe and senior Kevin Stinelli of Penn-Trafford were first-team picks, and Latrobe’s Brad Wetzel was the coach of the year after the Wildcats (18-2) to a 10-0 mark and the title.

In 5A, Greensburg Salem junior Dante Parsons was a first-team selection in Section 1, and senior Nick Leopold of Franklin Regional made the first team in Section 3.

On the girls side, local first-teamers in Section 1 were Norwin juniors Jayla Wehner and Olivia Gribble, and their coach, Brian Brozeski, was coach of the year. In Section 2, Hempfield junior Sarah Liberatore was the only local first-team player.

Section 2-5A first-team selections included Franklin Regional seniors Cali Konek and Jordan Yaniga.

Mirror image

The Derry boys and Southmoreland girls basketball teams had a lot in common this season. Most notably, they both made significant strides by returning to the WPIAL postseason for the first time since 2008.

Both teams play in Class 4A.

Derry lost to Blackhawk in the first round, and Southmoreland made the quarterfinals before losing to … Blackhawk.

To take it a step further, both only lose one senior, albeit hugely impactful ones — Derry in John Kerr and the Scotties with Maggie Moore.

Southmoreland remains alive for a PIAA playoff berth, but both teams figure to be back in the mix next season.

“We put our hand on the door knob in June,” Derry coach Tom Esposito said. “We turned it. We cracked the door knob open once the regular season started. I think our program pushed the door pretty wide open (in the first round). I have been coaching basketball for 22 years. I had some special teams. But this team, they’re great young men. This team is very close to my heart.”

Family tree

Is there a local family with more athletic pedigree than the Liberatores?

Sarah Liberatore is a junior basketball player at Hempfield. Both of her brothers, Collin and Jack, Greensburg Central Catholic grads, are Division I baseball pitchers — at Indiana State and Ohio, respectively.

Their parents both played Division I sports: Craig played baseball at Bowling Green, while Ellen swam at John Carroll.

There’s more, all packaged neatly in Jack Liberatore’s Ohio Bobcats bio: Their great-grandfather, Joe Henslor, played for the Pittsburgh Pirates; grandfather Ralph Liberatore played baseball at Kansas State; cousins Danielle and Megan Siverling were swimmers North Carolina and Penn State; uncle Brian Siverling played football at Penn State; aunt Sharie Rodriguez played tennis at Syracuse; and uncle Jorge Rodriguez played football at Syracuse.

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