No. 1 Pine-Richland heats up, rockets past Penn Hills

Saturday, October 3, 2020 | 10:54 PM

It took Class 5A No.1 Pine-Richland nearly a half to get into gear Saturday night.

But the Rams were able to dominate the rest of the way to down Penn Hills, 43-0, in a Northeast Conference game at Yuhas-McGinley Stadium.

Pine-Richland got a break when a Penn Hills punt traveled just 5 yards to the Indians 24 with 2 minutes, 46 seconds left in the first half.

On the following play, Spencer found Eli Jochem in the end zone to put the Rams on the scoreboard.

After a long Julian Dugger punt was downed at the Rams 7, Spencer drove his team 93 yards in just 66 seconds with Alex Gochis hauling in a pass inside the Penn Hills 20 and scoring to complete a 48-yard play with 52 seconds to go before halftime to make it 14-0.

The victory gave Pine-Richland a 2-0 mark in conference play, 3-0 overall. Penn Hills slipped to 1-1, 1-3.

Rams coach Eric Kasperowicz thought the favorable field position was a key

“That was huge,” the Pine-Richland coach said. “We started slow, and credit that to Penn Hills. They were a very physical team early on. But we kept to it and kept battling.”

“We played a quarter and a half of football here tonight,” said Indians coach Jon LeDonne. “You got behind, 14-0, on two big plays, but that what Pine’s good at. We talked and thought we had it covered up, but they made two big plays on us.”

Rams quarterback Cole Spencer had another spectacular night, passing for 260 yards and three scores. He also tallied on a 3-yard keeper in the third period.

Both teams were stopped at the other’s 4 early in the game.

Penn Hills senior defensive back Dontae Pollard intercepted Spencer at point-blank range on the game’s second play from scrimmage.

The Indians drove to the 4 before Rams linebacker Luke Miller stopped Dugger for a three-yard loss.

On fourth and 4 at the Penn Hills 4, Spencer’s pass in the end zone was broken up by Pollard.

Brooks Eastburn intercepted a Dugger pass to end the half.

Penn Hills appeared to be in business when Noah Roach picked off a Spencer pass at his 6 early in the third period. But the Indians had trouble moving the ball and Dugger was forced to punt from his end zone.

Avoiding a ferocious rush, Dugger managed to get the punt away, but Andrew Mellis returned the punt to the 15 and Spencer fired a pass on the next play to Jeremiah Hasley for the score.

“Our offense struggled tonight,” LeDonne said. “We got down to the 4 and couldn’t score. We played on their side of the field early on, and field position became an issue. We’re missing some guys tonight, including our regular punter. The special teams tonight also hurt us.”

Pine-Richland began to dominate the line of scrimmage with tackles for losses on the next three Penn Hills plays. The Rams defense tackled the Indians for losses 15 times.

Said Kasperowicz: “Hats off to the defense for the way they played awesome tonight, and the special teams were great.”

Senior linebacker and kicker Zach Waryanka was in on a number of plays defensively and booted five extra points, along with catching a Spencer 2-point conversion pass.

Spencer scored on a 3-yard keeper, Brooks Eastburn on a 16-yard run and Tristen Taylor on a 15-yard carry to conclude the scoring with 1:45 left in the game.

Gochis had 101 yards on four receptions while Jochem caught five for 95 yards.

Penn Hills senior Dontae Pollard intercepted a pair of passes besides the touchdown pass breakup. Teammate Noah Roach, who has committed to Akron, had a pick-off and five receptions.

Penn Hills has little time to rest, travelling to North Hills for a rare Thursday night encounter at 7 p.m. Pine-Richland will return home to play Shaler on Friday.

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