Pine-Richland routs Peters Township, wins WPIAL championship in 5th classification

Saturday, November 14, 2020 | 10:34 PM

Pine-Richland already had WPIAL football titles in Class 2A, 3A, 4A and 6A, and after a dominant performance on Saturday, the Rams added 5A to the list.

The top-seeded Rams rolled to a 35-0 win over Peters Township in the Class 5A championship game at North Allegheny’s Newman Stadium.

Pine-Richland earned its seventh WPIAL title — the first two, in Class AA, were won by Richland High School in 1969 and ‘70 — and the fourth of coach Eric Kasperowicz’s tenure. The Rams will play Governor Mifflin in the PIAA semifinals next week at a site and time to be announced.

“It doesn’t get old,” Kasperowicz said. “It feels as good as the first one. Our coaching staff has been together for all of them, and I think that’s huge for the continuity of the program.”

Led by seniors Cole Spencer, Caden Schweiger and Eli Jochem, the Rams built a 28-0 halftime lead. Spencer, a Penn wrestling commit, rushed for two touchdowns and hit Jochem on a 28-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.

Kasperowicz credited his seniors with strong leadership in a season burdened by a pandemic and was glad to see them get another WPIAL title after losing to Central Catholic in the 6A final last year.

“Our theme this year was ‘finish,’” Kasperowicz said. “We talked about it in February, then covid hit. We had a lot of zoom meetings, then finally in July, we were able to get out there and work. We lost (the 6A final) last year on a last-second field goal, so we wanted to get back here and finish the deal, and they did that tonight.”

Peters Township squandered two golden opportunities to get on the board in the first half. Trailing 7-0, the Indians recovered a fumble inside the Rams 30 late in the first quarter, but they turned the ball over on downs on four plays.

In the final minute of the first half, Jacob Macosko recovered fumbled punt inside the Rams’ 10, but the Indians again failed to score, with Lucas Culan coming up 2 yards short of the goal line on a fourth-down pass.

Pine-Richland (9-0) held the Indians to minus-9 rushing yards between the tackles, which was a key to the goal line stand late in the first half.

“They won up front and made it very difficult for us to run the ball,” Peters Township coach TJ Plack said. “They were able to drop some guys into coverage and not have to pressure us as much. That forced us to try and throw the ball from the 5-yard line, and that can be very difficult. I thought we had a couple of guys open, but their linemen batted some passes down.”

Peters Township got inside the Rams’ 10 two more times in the second half but again came up empty. The first drive ended with a missed field goal, and the second one was thwarted when Zach Waryanka intercepted a Logan Pfeuffer pass on the final play of the third quarter.

Brooks Eastburn scored on an 80-yard run on the first play following the field goal, which put the game into the mercy rule.

Pine-Richland rushed for 273 yards. Spencer came into the game having thrown for over 2,000 yards, but the Rams went with a run-focused approach to combat a unique secondary look from the Indians.

“We knew that they had a great secondary and they play a different scheme … kind of a like a Big 12 scheme … they jam up the middle and play deep to shallow on the back end,” Kasperowicz said. “We knew we wouldn’t get many deep shots, so we had to be physical up front and run the ball, and we did a good job with that.”

The Indians saw their season end for the second consecutive season in the Class 5A final after falling 22-21 to Gateway last year. It was a two-season run for a program had only two playoff victories prior to Plack taking over the program five years ago.

“Tonight doesn’t overlook what these seniors have done the last four years,” Plack said. “We were 8-0 this year against some really good teams, and we just ran into a program that was building for the last couple of years. They were stacked from top to bottom. They have guys that can make plays all over the field.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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