Spencer, Pine-Richland roll over Mt. Lebanon

Friday, October 11, 2019 | 11:11 PM

Pine-Richland is a top-flight Western Pennsylvania football program.

Mt. Lebanon is aspiring to get there.

It took less than a minute to let that narrative play out at Mt. Lebanon on Friday night. Pine-Richland needed just 45 seconds to reach the end zone.

A much-anticipated battle for second place in the Class 6A Quad County Conference turned into a lopsided affair in a hurry as the Rams (7-1, 5-1) throttled the Blue Devils (5-3, 4-2), 41-0.

A 29-7 setback to another WPIAL powerhouse, Central Catholic on Sept. 27, re-focused the Rams, coach Eric Kasperowicz said.

“Sometimes, it’s good to be on top, winning. I think going into that Central game, we got a little complacent, a little comfortable. We got our butts whooped,” Kasperowicz said. “We regrouped last week, and we knew this was going to be a tough Mt. Lebanon team. I’m proud of how they played.”

Cole Spencer compiled 299 total yards — 247 passing, 52 rushing — with three passing touchdowns and another rushing. The junior quarterback who leads Class 6A in passing (1,703 yards) and passing touchdowns (20) thought the first drive set the tone.

“If that happened to us, me being a quarterback and we haven’t touched the field and we’re down 7-0, it just makes them say, ‘Wow, this team can fly,’” Spencer said.

After a three-and-out the next possession, the Blue Devils forced the Rams into a fourth down only to let wideout Seth Bolin sneak behind its back line for a 39-yard reception. Spencer ran it in three plays later to push the score to 14-0. The Rams outgained the Blue Devils 399 to 121.

“We can score at any moment,” Spencer said. “That kind of puts the other team down knowing we can score that quick.”

Mt. Lebanon had a hard time moving the ball against a stout Pine Richland front. The middle was consistently plugged, and feature back Drew Vaughn’s largest gain was 10 yards. The Rams also forced three turnovers and held the Blue Devils to two first downs in the first half.

“Our staff had a great gameplan,” Kasperowicz said. “But the kids made the plays. I thought our linebackers were really tremendous tonight. We have two good ends we think are really good. Just proud of the way they played.”

Mt. Lebanon coach Bob Palko thought the result highlighted how far his team has to go.

“I’m not taking anything away from Pine-Richland,” he said. “But I’m not sure we didn’t lose that game Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. That’s the hardest thing to change right there. Because you can’t show up and expect things to happen. So you tip your hat, thanks for the (butt) whooping, and learn.”

A splash play to D’Avay “Day-Day” Johnson set up a 2-yard score by Jeremiah Hasley and the rout was on before halftime. Caden Schweiger recovered a fumble on the Mt. Lebanon 14 on the ensuing drive. Johnson got back in on the action the next play with a touchdown reception over the middle from Spencer to make it 34-0. He would finish with five catches for 106 yards and a touchdown.

“We had a couple plays not just designed for him,” Spencer said. “But especially with this Lebo defense, we know they’re aggressive. I gave them a pump fake, and he was open in the middle.”

Eli Jochem capped the scoring early in the second half with a 55-yard reception from Spencer. He had five receptions for 73 yards. Luke Meckler led the Rams in rushing with 74 yards on eight attempts and a touchdown.

“Are they 41 points better than us?,” Palko said. “Tonight it could have been worse if we they didn’t sit on the ball. But it’s a lesson to learn. I know those (Pine-Richland) kids look forward to practice after school. And we’re aspiring to get there.”

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