Top high school sports stories of the 2017-18 school year
By: Chris Harlan
Saturday, July 7, 2018 | 8:11 PM
Final score: Quaker Valley 2, Aliquippa 0. An unusual score produced maybe the most unlikely champion in WPIAL football history. The Quakers, who coaxed interim coach Jerry Veshio out of retirement days before the opener, won the first WPIAL title in team history and celebrated a state title three weeks later in Hershey.
Moon soccer star Delaney Snyder scored the only goal in the PIAA Class 3A girls final, a 1-0 victory over Villa Joseph Marie that clinched the Tigers an undefeated season and their second consecutive state title. Snyder finished the year with 59 goals.
In the words of coach Eric Kasperowicz, Pine-Richland's Phil Jurkovec “solidified himself as the best (high school) quarterback to ever play in the state of Pennsylvania.” Jurkovec ran for four TDs and threw a fifth to defeat defending champion St. Joseph's Prep, 41-21, in a snowy PIAA Class 6A final at Hersheypark Stadium.
WPIAL basketball added four 2,000-point scorers in one season. East Allegheny's Amani Johnson joined the club first and finished with 2,345 career points, but she soon had company. Mars' Robby Carmody (2,390), Chartiers-Houston's Alexa Williamson (2,213) and Leechburg's Mikayla Lovelace (2,047) joined in the next three weeks.
An on-court brawl that involved both players and fans marred a boys basketball game between section rivals Clairton and Monessen. The WPIAL let the teams compete in the playoffs but handed out a list of suspensions and put both schools' athletic departments on probation for five years — an unprecedented punishment.
The Aliquippa school board voted 7-2 to replace football coach Mike Zmijanac, who had coached the team for 21 seasons and reached the WPIAL finals each of the past 10 years. He owned a career record of 237-36 with six WPIAL titles and one state championship, but the board decided to open his job to applicants. Aliquippa hired Mike Warfield to replace him, and Zmijanac later accepted the coaching job at Ringgold.
Jefferson-Morgan's Gavin Teasdale became only the 13th wrestler in PIAA history to win four state titles. The Penn State recruit won the 126-pound Class AA title at Giant Center and finished his career 162-2.
A day later, Kiski Area wrestler Isaac Reid showed amazing resilience. The senior was hospitalized in November with a blood clot in his lung, returned in January and celebrated a 285-pound state title in March. He finished his season 23-0 with a win at Giant Center.
The WPIAL board of directors voted to send a survey to member schools asking for their feedback on the public vs. private debate. Among the results, 86 percent said the PIAA should create separate playoffs for boundary schools (public schools) and non-boundary schools (private, Catholic and charter schools). The issue since has become a statewide debate with superintendents, school boards and state legislators weighing in.
North Allegheny's Ayden Owens cemented his legacy by sweeping both Class AAA hurdles titles and bettering his own meet record in the 110s at the PIAA championship in Shippensburg. The Southern Cal recruit graduated as a five-time state track champion.
A two-out RBI double by sophomore Emma Hoffner earned Hempfield its third consecutive PIAA softball title. The Spartans rallied to defeat Parkland, 4-3, in eight innings at Penn State in the Class 6A championship.