High school football notebook: Southmoreland’s Harper enjoys breakthrough week

Thursday, August 29, 2019 | 9:49 PM

Southmoreland football coach Dave Keefer glanced over at one of his players during a training camp workout.

“Make sure you get a picture of this kid,” Keefer said. “He’s really committed to the program; He’s dropped 10 to 15 pounds and leaned out some. He should be able to do some good things for us.”

Keefer was referring to Colt Harper, his 6-foot-1, 220-pound senior running back and linebacker.

Harper didn’t disappoint in the Scotties’ opener. He scored three rushing touchdowns and intercepted a pair of passes in a 27-14 victory over Mt. Pleasant.

Harper, the fullback last season in front of 1,000-yard rusher Ronnie Robinson, ran for 86 yards on 21 carries. Keefer likes Harper’s “motor.”

“He was just so focused and wouldn’t be denied,” Keefer said. “He also forced a fumble and had two fumble recoveries.”

Other under-the-radar players who had breakthrough weeks — heroes of Week Zero — included Hempfield’s Demtrius Murphy, Jeannette’s Roberto Smith Jr. and Greensburg Central Catholic’s David Altimore.

All three players are juniors.

Murphy returned an interception 47 yards for a touchdown and rushed for 60 yards in a 40-3 win over Greensburg Salem.

Smith had a 50-yard pick-6 and ran for another score as the Jayhawks toppled East Allegheny, 34-12.

“We knew he could run,” Jeannette coach Roy Hall said. “But he can do other things for us. He’s a player.”

Altimore completed 7 of 9 passes for 146 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 21-18 win over Monessen.

Smith is expected to see time at quarterback, possible sharing snaps with junior James Sanders.

“There is no QB controversy,” Hall said. “James is our starter. But Roberto allows us to do some other things and catch teams off-guard. James will be on the field when Roberto is at quarterback.”

Bye for FR?

Unless Franklin Regional schedules an opponent for Sept. 27 — it seems late in the game for that to happen — the Panthers will have a rare week off.

The vacancy is from Albert Gallatin’s departure from the WPIAL. Franklin Regional has attempted to find an opponent for Week 5 but to no avail.

If nothing else, the Panthers can rest up before they play at top-ranked Gateway on Oct. 4.

The Panthers, who open the season Friday at Plum, already have a small, eight-game schedule since they did not play a Week Zero game, instead playing two scrimmages after a potential game against Bethel Park did not materialize.

Another local team, Belle Vernon, the No. 2-ranked WPIAL team in Class 4A, also opens its season Friday, at Ambridge.

Pruitt out?

Jeannette senior wide receiver and defensive back Jackson Pruitt is questionable Friday night with a right shoulder injury.

Pruitt came down on the shoulder after an interception in Week Zero at East Allegheny.

Waldier hurt

Yough sophomore quarterback Tristan Waldier is questionable this week with a leg injury he suffered last week against Serra Catholic. He was scheduled to get a MRI.

Junior running back/receiver Gamal Marballie is the backup.

State rankings

The TribLive High School Sports Network state rankings are out and two county teams made the top-5 in their respective class.

Ligonier Valley (1-0) checks in at No. 4 in Class 3A, while Jeannette (1-0) is No. 5 in Class A.

Defense doesn’t rest

Greensburg Central Catholic had a strong opening game offensively but the Centurions’ defense “quietly” posted 10 tackles-for-loss, five interceptions, two forced fumbles and a blocked extra point.

Other local teams also shined on the defensive side. Yough lost to Serra, 9-0, but the Cougars’ defense was up for the season opener, recording six sacks, 10 tackles-for-loss, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

Hempfield also picked off two passes, and had nine tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks against Greensburg Salem, which was limited to 26 yards rushing.

Remembering Yaccino

Penn-Trafford players are wearing a “JY” decal on the back of their helmets this season to remember former head coach John Yaccino. The Warriors’ leader from 1988-95, Yaccino died in March at age 78.

Known for his run-and-shoot offense, Yaccino led Penn-Trafford to five WPIAL playoff appearances. A former Pitt player who had a short stint in the NFL, he also coached at Norwin from 1974-80.

As as side note to Friday’s big showdown with Gateway, Gators coach Don Holl coached against Yaccino in the mid-to-late 1990’s when Holl was the head coach at Tunkhannock and Yaccino was the head man at Hazleton.

“Small world stuff,” Holl said.

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

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