Rivals Hempfield, Greensburg Salem to square off for 57th time

Wednesday, August 24, 2022 | 6:26 PM

It’s only one game on the schedule, the first of the season.

And in the grand scheme of things, it won’t impact conference standings for either team.

But bragging rights will again be on the line between the football players, students and communities from Hempfield and Greensburg Salem.

The 2022 season kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday at historic Offutt Field as the neighboring rivals meet for the 57th time. The players on both squads know each other well.

They may be friends off the field, but they are adversaries on it.

“These kids grew up playing against each other,” Greensburg Salem coach Dave Keefer said. “They are familiar with each other. You put a game film on and they usually know every single kid on the other roster.

“It’s a great game to start the season off and to get excited for high school football. They’re much larger school than we are, so we’re the underdogs and we’ll play that underdog card well.”

Hempfield leads the series 40-15-1 and has won the previous five meetings, including last year when the Spartans scored 22 points in the final quarter to rally for a 29-14 victory.

It was a game where Greensburg Salem self-destructed, turning the ball over six times and committing 16 penalties.

The Golden Lions had the more seasoned team in 2021, while the Spartans were young and had a new coach, Mike Brown.

It’s a role reversal in 2022 as the Spartans have a more veteran team and the Golden Lions will have new faces. Keefer, who is 0-5 against the Spartans, said he hopes this outcome is different.

One of those faces is actually a familiar one who will be in a new spot. Greensburg Salem senior Cody Rubrecht, one of the top wide receivers in the WPIAL, has moved to quarterback. Rubrecht was dominant against the Spartans in last year’s game. He caught nine passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns.

But when he cramped up in the third quarter and was forced to the sidelines, the Golden Lions’ offense struggled.

“Anytime you play Greensburg Salem, they’re going to be well-disciplined, play extremely hard and very well coached,” Brown said. “Their athleticism is unmatched with Rubrecht. When he has the ball in his hands, it’s scary for a defense. He can go at any time.

“We have to try to contain him and at times we might not be able to do that. They’re more athletic than last year. We’re not taking them lightly.”

Hempfield will be led by quarterback Jake Phillips and running back Gino Caesar. Last season, Phillips completed 13 of 23 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns. Caesar rushed for 101 yards and scored a touchdown.

“Anytime you have more of your starters back that have experience, they know what to expect in a game,” Brown said. “They know how to treat their bodies with nutrition and hydration. They know how to play in big games.

‘These kids played the likes of Mt. Lebanon, North Allegheny, Canon-McMillan and Norwin, and now we have that confidence. Hopefully, we worry about the deer in the headlights look. We’ll focus on the task at hand.”

Brown said he’s excited about beginning the season against a rival. The Spartans did well in their scrimmage against Fox Chapel last week and hope to continue that momentum.

“It’s good for the players to play a game with this magnitude from the get go,” Brown said. “We’re going to treat it like any other game. It’s actually nice that it’s close.”

The one thing Brown liked from the scrimmage was the physicality his team showed.

“The offense looked really good, the defense tackled well,” Brown said, “but there are things we need to fine tune.”

Greensburg Salem went against Ringgold in its scrimmage. Keefer said he felt it went well and several players got some needed reps.

“We approached the scrimmage a little different,” Keefer said. “We said, ‘Hey guys, we need to get ready for the season and we need to give the new guys more reps than we typically give them than our regular scrimmage.’

Ringgold showed us some things and we struggled a little offensively. The most important thing about a scrimmage is coming out healthy, and we did.”

Greensburg Salem’s last win against Hempfield came in 2011, 34-14, when former Hempfield coach and now Greensburg Salem assistant coach Casey Cavanaugh was in charge of the Golden Lions.

Fast facts

Series: Hempfield leads 40-15-1

Last year: Hempfield, 29-14

First game: 1956, Greensburg won, 49-0 (Greensburg Salem formed in 1959)

First Hempfield win: 1958, 13-7

Special night: Greensburg Salem will recognize the late Huddie Kaufman, former sports editor of the Tribune-Review, by naming the press box at Offutt Field in his honor during a ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Kaufman died in 2020 at age 92.

Did you know?: Fifty years ago, a crowd of 7,329 watched Greensburg Salem defeat Hempfield, 25-8, to end an eight-game winless streak (the 1968 game ended in a tie). Running back Duane Taylor rushed for 135 yards, quarterback John Andress ran for 65 yards, completed seven passes and kicked a 32-yard field goal, and lineman Frank Sundry, the current athletic director’s dad, returned a fumble 35 yards for a score. Taylor and Andress went on to play at Penn State. It was the second consecutive season Sundry returned a fumble for a score.

Head to head

Here’s a look at the last 15 meetings between rivals Hempfield and Greensburg Salem:

2021: Hempfield, 29-14

2020: Canceled because of pandemic

2019: Hempfield, 40-3

2018: Hempfield, 27-24

2017: Hempfield, 49-21

2016: Hempfield, 28-21

2011: Greensburg Salem, 34-14

2010: Greensburg Salem, 38-35

2009: Hempfield, 40-7

2008: Hempfield, 27-20

2007: Hempfield, 27-14

2006: Hempfield, 6-0

2005: Hempfield, 41-14

2004: Hempfield, 20-17

2003: Hempfield, 6-2

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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