Westmoreland HS football notebook: Hempfield win among program’s best

Saturday, September 24, 2022 | 8:38 PM

With 5,000-plus sardined into Spartan Stadium, Hempfield pulled off one of its biggest football wins in at least four decades Friday night with a 28-17 victory over defending WPIAL and PIAA Class 5A champion Penn-Trafford, which had just moved into the No. 1 spot in the TribLive HSSN rankings.

Hempfield continues to turn heads and make waves across the WPIAL.

Beating Penn-Trafford is validation for the Spartans, who respect the Warriors’ program and winning tradition. Spartans second-year coach Mike Brown played at Penn-Trafford.

The Spartans moved into the No. 3 spot in the TribLive HSSN 5A rankings.

“It was a great overall team win against a good team,” said Spartans senior wide receiver Ian Tuffs, who had a 42-yard touchdown reception in the win. “Everyone played really well, and we got the job done tonight.”

Quarterback Jake Phillips said the Spartans fed off the energy from the crowd.

“It was awesome. It was either sold out or close to it,” Phillips said. “To us as players, it was fantastic. It’s all you can ask for. The student section was going wild. Everyone was off their feet clapping and screaming and I know as a visitor what that feels like coming into another person’s stadium. It was a huge advantage for us.”

The Spartans, who are 5-0 for the first time in 51 years, will chisel this win in with some other benchmark victories from years past.

The one that stands out most has to be the upset of Penn Hills in 1978.

Penn Hills was ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today but was tripped up by the Spartans, 17-14, on a field goal by Larry Zajdel with 24 seconds remaining. The Indians’ 32-game unbeaten streak came crashing down as Hempfield, coached by the late Bill Abraham, celebrated on a hot and steamy Saturday afternoon.

Middle linebacker Rob Kane sealed the upset with an interception.

Penn Hills had edged Hempfield in 1977, 7-0, with a touchdown in the final seconds, which made the win that much sweeter for the Spartans.

Hempfield made the national rankings and vaulted to No. 1 in the WPIAL that season but did not make the playoffs despite finishing 7-2-1 after losses the next two weeks against Connellsville and Kiski Area.

Penn Hills, led by future NFL quarterback Tommy Flynn, went on to win its fourth straight WPIAL championship.

Defensive end Dave Wolinsky later told the Tribune-Review, “When we got back to school, the fans and band were waiting along the driveway entering the school. It sent chills through us.”

The current Spartans, who haven’t won five games since 2016, will begin to prepare for No. 4 Gateway. They host the Gators next Friday in another intriguing proving ground game for the Spartans.

“There are definitely some areas we need to improve on and clean up,” Tuffs said. “But I’m confident we will take care of that this week and get ready for Gateway.”

Hempfield has the highest-scoring offense (44.6 points per game) and top points-against average (8.2) in 5A.

Missing in action

Penn-Trafford wasn’t at full strength against Hempfield.

At least three starters did not play because of injuries: wide receiver and defensive back Jake Otto, running back and linebacker Owen Demari and H-back and linebacker Josh Huffman.

Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said he’s hoping to get those players back soon.

Greyhound bus

Monessen coach Wade Brown took over a crumbling program last year, one that was mired in rumors of player disinterest and the possibility of folding.

But the Greyhounds suddenly are a contender in the Class A Tri-County South Conference.

A playoff team last year at 4-7, 3-4, Monessen won its third straight game Friday, defeating California, a team that came in averaging over 40 points, 28-20.

Daevon Burke scored three touchdowns, and TyVaughn Kershaw added a score as Monessen built a 28-8 lead.

California had allowed only 26 points coming into the game.

“We are definitely excited about the win,” Brown said. “We are trying to head in the right direction, which is positive, but we still have a lot of work to do.”

GCC lighting it up

When Greensburg Central Catholic wins, the scoreboard operator doesn’t get many bathrooms breaks.

The Centurions (3-2) dismantled Springdale, 69-6, and are averaging 60.2 points in their wins.

They will face a stern test next week when Clairton (2-3, 2-0) comes to town.

The Bears beat a Leechburg team averaging 50 points, 20-13.

Dual-threat Rubrecht

Cody Rubrecht did it again. The Greensburg Salem quarterback topped 100 yards rushing and passing, but the Golden Lions lost to East Allegheny, 42-21.

Rubrecht ran for 150 yards and threw for 142 yards in the loss.

Rams, Scotties blanked

Ligonier Valley suffered a rare home shutout Friday night as Steel Valley came to Weller Field and walked out a 48-0 winner.

They had not been blanked at home since Fort Hill (Md.) won, 29-0, on Sept. 23, 2011.

Deer Lakes, meanwhile, posted a 9-0 shutout against Southmoreland.

It was the first time the Scotties did not score in a regular-season game since 2016 when Elizabeth Forward beat them 39-0.

Extra points

Quinton Martin of Belle Vernon returned a punt 97 yards for a touchdown in a 21-7 win over rival Thomas Jefferson. … Robbie Labuda ran for 123 yards in Mt. Pleasant’s 24-6 loss to Freeport. … Freshman Kymone Brown threw a touchdown pass for Jeannette in a 24-20 loss to Charleroi. … Jeannette’s last two losses are by a combined five points. The Jayhawks have scored 128 points and allowed 127. … Hempfield joins a list of other 5-0 teams that includes North Allegheny (6A), Upper St. Clair (5A), McKeesport (4A), Highlands (4A), Central Valley (4A), Elizabeth Forward (3A), South Side Beaver (A), OLSH (A) and Mapletown (A).

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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