Pine-Richland routs Cathedral Prep to claim PIAA Class 5A title

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Friday, November 27, 2020 | 10:54 PM


HERSHEY — Luke Miller was a Pine-Richland waterboy four years ago when the Rams last celebrated a state football championship at Hersheypark Stadium.

“I remember the feeling the seniors had, looking at each other saying: ‘Wow, we did it. We finally did it.’ ”

Miller and his teammates now know exactly how they felt.

“I could see that (emotion) in all of my friends’ eyes tonight,” said Miller, a senior linebacker who made a game-high 16 tackles Friday night as Pine-Richland routed Cathedral Prep, 48-7, in the PIAA Class 5A final.

Rams running back Caden Schweiger rushed for three touchdowns in the mercy rule victory, and wideout Eli Jochem finished with 162 receiving yards on seven catches with an 86-yard touchdown included. Running back Jordan Burns added 130 rushing yards and a touchdown on six carries.

They’re all part of a talented senior class that set this goal years ago.

“Ever since that 2017 team did it, we said that’s going to be us senior year,” said quarterback Cole Spencer, who threw for a touchdown and rushed for another. “This senior class is a great group of guys. I love them all. To be able to get it done on this field is awesome.”

They’re only the second Pine-Richland team to celebrate in Hershey, joining that 2017 squad quarterbacked by Phil Jurkovec. The Rams were state runners-up in 2014 and 2003 with talented teams that only narrowly lost.

Where does this Rams team rank among the four?

“This team is really good. Ask me in a couple of weeks,” Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz said. “The pieces this team has, the resiliency, they’re battle tested. They won the games they should have won. There’s just so much fight in these guys with all the seniors who’ve been together for a number of years.”

In three years, the group went 32-5.

A week ago, they pulled off an improbable second-half rally, erasing a 22-point deficit in a win the Rams will talk about for years.

This game needed no such heroics.

Instead, Pine-Richland (11-0) limited its turnovers to one, played stout defense and watched its offense take over.

The Rams led 7-0 after the first quarter, 21-7 at half and 28-7 after three. They added three more touchdowns in the fourth quarter, surpassing the 35-point margin for a running clock.

District 10 champion Cathedral Prep (7-3) hadn’t played a game since Nov. 6. The Ramblers were left idle for 20 days after their PIAA quarterfinal and semifinal opponents both forfeited.

Prep quarterback Tamar Sample passed for 90 yards, and the team combined to rush for only 154 yards on 49 carries — an average of 3.1 yards per attempt.

The Ramblers scored their lone touchdown on a 4-yard pass from Sample to Patrick Fortin in the final seconds before halftime.

They had another goal-line scoring chance late in the third but were stopped four times inside the 5-yard line. On third down, Miller burst into the backfield and tackled Sample for no gain. On fourth down, Jeremiah Hansey sacked Sample for a 7-yard loss.

Cathedral Prep dominated time of possession by nearly a 3-to-1 margin. Prep had the football for 35 minutes and Pine-Richland had it for 13. But while the Ramblers had long drives that often went nowhere, Pine-Richland struck quickly.

The Rams scored seven touchdowns. Six of their seven touchdown drives included four plays or fewer and lasted less than 90 seconds.

The shortest was the one-play, 86-yard drive in the third quarter when Jochem raced the length of the field in 15 seconds. The longest was an eight-play, 90-yard drive in the fourth that ended with a Schweiger touchdown.

The Rams’ other touchdown drives lasted 43 seconds, 52 seconds, 65 seconds, 71 seconds and 84 seconds.

Spencer completed 10 of 16 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown. He scored Pine-Richland’s first points on an 18-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.

Hasley and Schweiger followed with second-quarter rushing touchdowns to lead 21-0.

“If we came out and played our game, didn’t turn the ball over,” Kasperowicz said, “we felt pretty good about our game plan.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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