Pine-Richland seniors aim to cap careers as state champions

Wednesday, December 7, 2022 | 3:11 PM

The seniors on the Pine-Richland football team have an opportunity to complete their story arc in grand style.

They were sophomores when the Rams won the 2020 state title. Since then they’ve gone through coaching changes in back-to-back offseasons, but under the direction of Jon LeDonne they’ve found their footing.

Now they will attempt to finish it off with a second state title in three years.

The Rams (12-3) will play Philadelphia powerhouse Imhotep Charter (10-2) in the Class 5A state championship at 7 p.m. Friday at Cumberland Valley.

“I’m excited for the senior class,” LeDonne said. “They’ve been through a lot the last few years. They went through covid as sophomores and were pretty much separated from the varsity team, multiple coaching changes and started this year off 1-3 to getting to all that they have achieved.

“They were maybe questioning themselves a little bit but continued to believe in what we are doing and executing the game plan. We’re going to celebrate them either way, but hopefully we can give them an opportunity to go out as a state champion.”

Standing in the way of the state title is an Imhotep team that has multiple future NCAA Division I players.

Senior linebacker Semaj Bridgeman is a Michigan recruit. Senior defensive back Rahmir Stewart has offers from Alabama, Kentucky, Nebraska, Rutgers and Syracuse.

The Panthers also have several underclassmen with D1 offers. Jahsear Robinson, a junior defensive lineman, is committed to Pitt. Kenneth Woseley, a junior cornerback, has offers from Boston College, Cincinnati, Florida, Georgia and Georgia Tech. Sophomore defensive end Zahir Mathis already has offers from Boston College, Cincinnati, Florida, Georgia and Kentucky, and running back Jabree Wallace-Coleman committed to Georgia this summer prior to his sophomore season.

Wallace-Coleman has rushed for more than 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Imhotep also features a talented left-handed quarterback in Mikal Davis.

Davis, a junior, has thrown for 1,787 yards and has 19 touchdowns to six interceptions.

“They are a very athletic group,” LeDonne said. “On the back end they are very fast and on the front end they are strong and aggressive. They have kids from all over Philadelphia playing for them. We’re going to have to play our best game to beat them.”

Pine-Richland has scored more than 30 points three times in the playoffs, including a 34-12 win over Cocalico in the semifinals last week.

Ryan Palmieri moved from running back to quarterback four weeks into the season, and the Rams offense took off. Palmieri has fit the bill of a dual-threat, rushing for nearly 1,700 yards and 21 touchdowns, while also showing the ability to get the ball down the field through the air.

Ethan Pillar moved into the lead running back role and has flourished, scoring 14 touchdowns.

LeDonne said they’ve done a good job of mixing their play calls, and their success comes from the strength of the offensive line, which is led by seniors Jake Beam, Isaiah Kerns and Brady Carrigan and juniors Ryan Cory and Jonathan Smith.

“The biggest thing is what our offensive line has done collectively to open holes for these guys,” LeDonne said. “Ryan has 1,700 yards and Ethan is close to 1,300 yards, so that’s 3,000 yards rushing for our offensive line. We’ve played 15 games, but most of that yardage has come in the last 12 games. They are doing a fantastic job, and we’re going to be leaning on them pretty heavily on Friday.”

Being able to control the line of scrimmage will be a crucial part of the game plan going into Friday’s matchup.

“If we can get 3 or 4 yards a pop, that’s what we want to do,” LeDonne said. “That’ll keep them off the field as well. Anytime you line up across from someone as athletic as they are you can’t just give them the ball and put your defense in bad positions.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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