Pine-Richland football team striving for 3-peat
By: Kevin Lohman
Thursday, August 15, 2019 | 12:01 AM
The Pine-Richland football team will be seeking to accomplish one of the most rare achievements in WPIAL football history, winning three straight championships in the league’s highest classification — a feat that has only been accomplished by one team in the last century, North Allegheny from 2010-12.
However, this year’s Rams are entering the season with an entirely different set of strengths and weaknesses as compared to last year’s team.
Whereas coach Eric Kasperowicz’s squad came into last season with a monster offensive line, an experienced defense and a set of young, inexperienced playmakers, this year’s Rams will kick off their campaign with a brand new offensive line, a retooled defense and a gang of seasoned skill players.
“Yeah, it’s actually the exact opposite of last year. Last year, we had three guys on the offensive line returning and only one skill player. This year, we have every single skill player and have to replace our offensive line,” Kasperowicz said.
“It’s almost a role-reversal from last year, I guess time will tell how it ends up. We have great leadership and some good young guys. There’s some position battles for those OL spots, and we’ll see how those play out, but it’s exciting.”
After accumulating 1,459 passing yards and 15 touchdowns, quarterback Cole Spencer returns to captain the Pine-Richland offense. The junior will be one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the WPIAL after running for 880 yards and 14 touchdowns last year.
“Last year, as a sophomore, we kind of brought him along slow and gave him more and more options as the season progressed,” Kasperowicz said. “He’s a seasoned veteran now. He’s a leader now. He has to take the reigns and he’ll be fine with that.”
Spencer will have a few weapons at his disposal, as the team’s top two receivers from last season, Eli Jochem and Luke Miller, are returning for their junior seasons. Another player to watch is junior wide receiver D’Avay Johnson, who has turned heads in early-season practices.
Luke Meckler will be a problem for the Rams’ Class 6A opponents this season. The senior running back racked up 1,492 yards on 183 carries and also caught 17 balls for 261 yards last season.
Kasperowicz calls Meckler the perfect player for their offensive system, and Meckler said he loves being a part of an offense that suits his skills.
“It’s awesome. Our offense is very fast. We’re going to be one of the fastest offenses in the state,” Meckler said. “We don’t burn plays. We go right down the field, as fast as we can, any way that we can, pass it or run it.”
According to Kasperowicz, at least seven players are vying for starting positions on the Pine-Richland offensive line. One of them is junior Miguel Jackson, who has already established himself as one of the premier defensive lineman in WPIAL Class 6A.
“Miguel’s explosive. He’s one of our most explosive kids. He has big play ability, you have to know where he is on every play if your playing against him on offense because he can just create absolute havoc for opponents,” Kasperowicz said. “He kind of broke out last year so we’re expecting big things from him this season.”
Jackson and Trent Miller will anchor the defensive line, which figures to be a main strength for that unit this season.
Coach: Eric Kasperowicz
2018 record: 11-3, 7-1
All-time record: 356-277-13
Date, Opponent, Time
8.23, Penn Hills, 7
8.30, at Hempfield*, 7
9.6, Moon, 7
9.13, at Butler*, 7:30
9.20, Norwin*, 7
9.27, at Central Catholic*+, 7:30
10.4, Canon-McMillan*, 7
10.11, at Mt. Lebanon*, 7:30
10.18, at Seneca Valley*, 7:30
10.25, North Allegheny*, 7
*Class 6A Conference game
+At Carnegie Mellon
Passing: Cole Spencer
124-219, 1,459 yards, 15 TDs
Rushing: Luke Meckler
193-1,492 yards, 21 TDs
Receiving: Luke Miller
28-377 yards, 4 TDs