QB Phil Jurkovec shines as No. 1 Pine-Richland tops rival North Allegheny to reach WPIAL Class 6A final
By: Chris Harlan
Saturday, November 11, 2017 | 12:48 AM
The only item absent from Phil Jurkovec’s resume, a sensational three-year span that already has him mentioned among the WPIAL greats, is a championship.
He lost in the semifinals as a sophomore and missed last year’s playoffs with a thumb injury. Now a senior, the Pine-Richland quarterback still has never played at Heinz Field, but earned his way there Friday night with a 400-yard, five-touchdown passing performance that showcased his dual-threat talent.
“What he did as a sophomore, to lose that game … and then last year with the injury, this was special to him,” Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz said, “because he wanted to get this team to the championship game. To play at Heinz, as a high school kid in Western Pennsylvania, is a special thing.”
On a frigid night at Ambridge’s Moe Rubenstein Stadium, as temperatures dipped into the low 20s, Jurkovec accounted for 539 offensive yards Friday as No. 1-seed Pine-Richland defeated No. 5 North Allegheny, 49-25, in a WPIAL Class 6A quarterfinal.
Pine-Richland rushed for more than 600 yards against North Allegheny just two weeks ago. This time, NA focused more on stopping the run, so Jurkovec completed 18 of 20 throws for 432 yards and five touchdowns. He connected nine times with wideout Jason DeFrancisis, who had 263 yards and scored on receptions of 52, 17, 25 and 46 yards.
The Notre Dame commit became just the seventh passer in WPIAL history to reach 7,000 career yards.
“We came out tonight and tried to run the ball a little bit, and they were a lot tougher in terms of how they fit up,” Jurkovec said of NA’s defense. “They were tackling a lot better, but they were leaving the passing open. Jason DeFrancisis and the wide receivers, they made plays.”
With 2 minutes, 34 seconds until halftime, Pine-Richland’s lead was only 21-18 after North Allegheny kicked a 32-yard field goal. But Jurkovec needed just 66 seconds to answer with a four-play, 63-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 17-yard catch by DeFrancisis.
Pine-Richland led 28-18 at halftime and 41-25 after three quarters.
“You’re going to be watching him play at Notre Dame, and you’re going to watch him play on Sundays,” said North Allegheny coach Art Walker, who called Jurkovec the best dual-threat quarterback his teams ever faced. “He made a couple throws tonight that were unreal.”
North Allegheny's Ryan Langdon brings in a catch for a touchdown during the third quarter of their game in the #WPIAL playoffs. Complete #TribHSSN coverage: https://t.co/DDK9LPuuoC pic.twitter.com/AJ6ukuefGO
— Trib HS Insider (@TribHSInsider) November 11, 2017
With Jurkovec, it’s a matter of picking your poison, Walker said.
“He’s a special talent, he’s tough to stop,” Walker said. “He threw the ball extremely well tonight and ran the ball well. Then you take away Phil, you try to, and they’ve got Crawford and (Kenny) White. There’s a lot of weapons. It gets you in that position where you’re taking one or two things away and the third thing gets you.”
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.