Pine-Richland football reloads, readies for state title game

Sunday, December 3, 2017 | 5:24 PM

With as many as twelve of its players, including quarterback Phil Jurkovec, battling illness, the Pine-Richland football team punched its ticket to the state title game by putting away Manheim Township, 28-7, in the PIAA Class 6A semifinals.

The Rams (15-0) have a week to recover and regain their strength before the ultimate showdown against St. Joseph's Prep of Philadelphia (13-0) at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.

“The toughness and resilience that these guys have, all the hard work they've put into this, especially Phil, with how sick he was — there was nothing that was going to keep him from playing. He was never near 100 percent, but Phil at about 50 percent is still pretty darn good,” coach Eric Kasperowicz said.

“We're hoping we'll be able to get the full dose of him on Saturday in Hershey.”

Kasperowicz and his team might need the full dose of Jurkovec, and the rest of the roster, against a Hawks team that has reeled off 27 straight wins.

In addition to St. Joseph's recent streak, the program has collected three of the last four state championships in the Pennsylvania's largest classification, including a 49-41 win over Pine-Richland in the 2014 Class AAAA title game.

“They're the kings right now in the state, and we have to go slay the dragon. We have to play a perfect game in all three phases,” Kasperowicz said.

“This group, they want to be the class that gets over the hump. Two Pine-Richland teams have made it to the state finals. In 2003 and 2014, we came up just a bit short at the very end. These guys are looking to leave the legacy that they're the team that gets over the hump and finally wins it all.”

On top of winning the school's first state title, the Rams have an opportunity to cement their place among some of the best football teams in the history of Western Pennsylvania.

Up to this point, the WPIAL Class 6A champs have won all fifteen of their games by an average margin of 31.8 points. The WPIAL and PIAA playoffs have followed a similar script as the team has won five games by an average of 28.6 points. The closest game the Rams have played this year was a 48-28 win over North Allegheny in the regular-season finale.

According to Kasperowicz, however, the Rams only have their eye on the future and the one game left on their schedule. And nothing would be sweeter than knocking off a prep school.

“What we've accomplished so far, being 15-0, it's incredible. But I know these guys want to go out with a win. Prep, obviously, they have kids from New York, Delaware, New Jersey, all over. They get kids from three different states,” he said.

“We're a small, homegrown football team. We're just playing for each other. As of now, we're public school champs in the state of Pennsylvania but now we want to be the undisputed state champs.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.


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