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