Little guys having big seasons in Westmoreland County football

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Saturday, October 12, 2019 | 8:36 PM


You don’t have to be the biggest guy on your football team to shine on Friday nights.

That sure was the case for Franklin Regional’s Zac Gordon, Jeannette’s Imani Sanders, Hempfield Area’s Nathan Roby, Derry Area’s Justin Huss and Ligonier Valley’s Kyrie Miller.

All five seniors had impressive games.

Gordon rushed for a career-high 230 yards and three touchdowns to lead Franklin Regional to a 35-7 victory at Connellsville.

The 5-foot-9, 170-pound senior returned the opening kickoff 80 yards to set up the Panthers’ first score.

He has rushed for 729 yards and scored nine touchdowns this season.

“The guys blocked well up front, and Zac has good vision and good speed once he gets past the line of scrimmage,” Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta said. “He’s a tough kid and a hard worker.”

Sanders, a 5-6, 170-pound senior, had a career game against Greensburg Central Catholic. He rushed for 211 yards and scored five touchdowns as Jeannette ran over the Centurions, 48-14.

Jeannette rushed for 508 yards, and quarterback Jimmy Sanders passed for 142 yards and a touchdown as the Jayhawks combined for 650 yards.

“I can’t remember a game like this since the Terrelle Pryor days (2006-08),” Jeannette coach Roy Hall said. “Imani was phenomenal.”

Imani Sanders credited his line for opening up holes.

“Every week the games are won in the trenches,” Sanders said. “So if the make holes, I’ll run through them.”

It doesn’t hurt that Sanders has speed, elusiveness and physical strength to run through and around tackles. He’s rushed for 839 yards and 16 touchdowns this season.

Hall said the offensive line, led by four-year starter Justin Cramer and Zach Crutchman, have been manhandling opposing defenses.

“They’ve been played really well,” Hall said. “When Justin started as a freshman, he was a fullback/linebacker. When we moved him to the line, he did it for the team.”

Cramer is a special player for Jeannette, a four-year starter at linebacker. He is four tackles shy for 400 in his career.

“We haven’t had many four-year starters at Jeannette,” Hall said.

Greensburg Central Catholic coach Bret Colbert said Sanders has great feet and speed and knows how to finish plays.

Roby, a 5-7, 145 senior, is enjoying a big season. He had a memorable game in a losing cause against North Allegheny. He rushed for 187 yards and scored on runs of 51 and 56 yards. He also caught a 9-yard touchdown pass as the Spartans fell to the Tigers, 62-35.

“Nathan has played like that since his sophomore year, and you can tell he’s great,” Hempfield coach Rich Bowen said. “He’s 5 feet, 7 inches and 145 pounds, and he just had a terrific night against a great football team. It’s nothing new to us.”

He has rushed for 728 yards and seven touchdowns this season, and he leads the team in catches with 43 for 479 and six touchdowns.

Huss led Derry to a 42-6 victory against Yough. He rushed for 190 yards and three touchdowns. His first touchdown traveled 72 yards.

The 5-9, 155 senior had carried for 1,169 yards and 16 touchdowns this season.

Derry coach Tim Sweeney calls Huss the best back in the WPIAL Class 3A Big East Conference.

Miller became Ligonier Valley’s all-time leading rusher after running for 109 yards and two scores in a 42-7 win against Northern Cambria. He set the school’s all-time rushing touchdown mark last week against Marion Center.

The 5-9, 186 pound senior has rushed for 1,042 yards this season and 21 touchdowns.

He passed Collin Smith, who finished with 3,010 yards. Miller has 3,017 yards and increased his touchdown total to 50.

Miller not only is a hard worker, according to Ligonier Valley coach Roger Beitel, he benefits from having a great offensive line that features at least three future Division I linemen.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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