Jurkovec-led Pine-Richland marches into Heinz Field

Sunday, November 12, 2017 | 11:40 PM

Twelve games down and one to go for the Pine-Richland football team as it gears up for the WPIAL Class 6A championship game after ending rival North Allegheny's season with a 49-25 win in the semifinals.

It was a virtually flawless performance by quarterback Phil Jurkovec that helped the Rams pave the way to victory against the Tigers, with the senior completing 18 of his 20 attempts for 432 passing yards and five touchdowns and rushing for 107 yards on 12 carries.

Now, coach Eric Kasperowicz and his team will move on to play Central Catholic in the title game at 2 p.m. Saturday at Heinz Field, and to hear Kasperowicz tell it, it will almost be a relief for the team to finally get there.

“It's one thing whenever nobody expects you to be there and there's no pressure, but to be a team that has kind of been on top all year in the rankings, for whatever that's worth, everyone thinks you should make it and that makes for some added pressure,” the Rams coach said.

“I think the guys handled that well and blocked out all the noise, and just played. I think that showed last night. If we want to continue winning, then we're going to have to keep doing that week in and week out.”

This year's championship game will mark Pine-Richland's first since 2014, when they beat Central Catholic, 21-13 for the Class 4A championship. Since then, the Vikings have appeared in the title game every season.

The difference in championship-game experience between his team and his upcoming opponent doesn't bother Kasperowicz, however.

He points out his team has played in two nationally televised games on ESPN in the past two years to support their familiarity with big-game atmospheres.

Pine-Richland routed Central Catholic, 47-17, in the regular season.

The Pine-Richland coach is confident in his team's chances because they have been driven by one sole purpose all year long: legacy.

And now, with the team on the cusp of playing for a chance to solidify their legacy, it's going to take a lot to stop them.

“Legacy, it's extremely important. That's something that's in our culture here at Pine-Richland, to respect the teams that came before us. They're the ones that set the foundation and did it before we got here. But this 2017 group is trying to create their own legacy, whatever that ends up being,” Kasperowicz said.

“That book is still being written as we speak. I'm sure they want to go out on the highest note possible.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.


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