Trib HSSN football team of the week for 2023 Week 10

Monday, November 6, 2023 | 5:26 PM

The year 2023 really is the Year of the Deer.

In March, the Deer Lakes boys basketball team won its first WPIAL championship by ending OLSH’s three-year stay on top.

Eight months later, the Lancers football team has delivered the school’s first postseason victory on the gridiron.

“It’s unbelievable what the kids have done; they are spectacular,” Deer Lakes football coach Tim Burk said. “All the credit goes to the guys for just believing and buying into what we preach. To see the progression from four years ago and sitting in a good spot for the future, the credit goes to the kids. When you have good kids and good talent, it makes coaching easy.”

It’s hard to believe where this program is now compared to four years ago when this group of seniors were cutting their teeth and seeing their share of playing time in 2020, a season in which the Lancers finished 0-7.

“It was difficult,” Burk said. “That year, we were getting pounded. A lot of my coaches are still around and we said, man, are we doing the right thing here by trying to flip this thing and get it right. Looking back on it, that was the right decision.

“We knew coming into this a few years ago that we were starting from the ground up. We needed to change the culture moving forward. Steve Sciullo (former Deer Lakes coach) did a great job here in getting things righted. This was just building off him and doing things I learned from him.”

Burk believes the connection between the boys basketball team and his football team goes further than the handful of players who played for both teams.

“It’s contagious,” Burk said. “You get a little taste of it in a sport, and it seems everybody wants to be part of that. What Albie Fletcher did with the basketball team was monumental. I saw the community rally behind it and you want to be a part of that.”

Deer Lakes School District was formed in 1969 with the merger of West Deer and East Deer-Frazer school districts. Entering Friday’s Class 3A first round playoff game at home against Southmoreland, Deer Lakes was 0-4 in WPIAL football playoff games. The last postseason victory by any school of the previous schools was in the 1946 Class A championship game when East Deer defeated Bethel Park, 14-7.

The Lancers struck first Friday against the Scotties on a 3-yard scoring pass from senior quarterback Derek Burk to junior wide receiver Zach Grant.

“I think it was huge, Burk said. “For us, it was like a big deep breath that we’re OK, here we go; it was big for us. Zach has really stepped up and been a true blessing for us. The kid separated his shoulder last summer and had three plates put in his shoulder. We sat him down at the end of last year and told him we need you to buy into the weight room and he listened. He’s been an absolute stud for us.”

Burk’s son Derek has also been a stud for the Lancers. He is the eighth-leading passer in the WPIAL and is 61 yards shy of 2,000 passing yards this season. He has 26 touchdown passes and is also the team’s second leading rusher with 469 yards.

“I walk this fine line; you don’t want to over hype your kid, but you don’t want to undersell him either,” the coach said. “At the end of the day, he’s our guy. When you have a four-year starter that leads us and leads us by example, what can you say? In crucial moments, we let Derek do what he’s going to do. It’s been an honor to coach him.”

For the game, Burk finished with 146 yards passing and three touchdowns while junior running back Zier Williams rushed for 115 yards and a score.

The 8-3 Lancers head into the unknown, a WPIAL quarterfinal Friday when they visit the beach with the daunting task of facing top-seeded and defending champion Belle Vernon (8-1).

“Oh man, unbelievable,” Burk said of the Leopards. “What Matt Humbert has done down there is unbelievable. There aren’t many flaws and very few kinks in that armor. They’re just so talented everywhere you look. Everybody talks about Quinton Martin and rightfully so, but they’re big up front and their skilled players are athletic and fly around. It’s going to be a true challenge.”

WPIAL Week 10 Honorable Mention

Trinity Hillers

While Trinity finished tied for second place in the Class 4A Big Seven Conference with Thomas Jefferson and Latrobe and owned a victory over the Jaguars on their regular season resume, the Hillers were the No. 4 team out of the conference after tiebreakers. The Hillers didn’t blink as they took the short trip to neutral site South Fayette and blanked Greater Allegheny Conference runner-up North Catholic. Sophomore quarterback Jonah Williamson had 136 total yards with a touchdown in a 49-0 whitewash win over the Trojans.

Western Beaver Golden Beavers

Western Beaver followed the lead of one of the top rookies in the WPIAL all season, finishing third in the Class 2A Midwestern Athletic Conference. However, in their postseason opener, the Golden Beavers hopped on the shoulders of a vet, who ran wild in a 17-point victory over Serra Catholic. Senior running back Tyson Florence rushed for 225 yards and two touchdowns while freshman quarterback Jaivin Peel continued his outstanding season with 210 yards passing and two scores in a 38-21 victory over the Eagles.

California Trojans

Following two years with no football postseason wins, the much-maligned Class A Tri-County South Conference ended that drought last fall when Mapletown defeated Leechburg in a first-round playoff game. Last year’s TCS champion, California, made sure a new drought would not begin when it knocked off Jeannette for the conference’s lone win on opening night Friday. Senior running back Spencer Petrucci led the way for the Trojans, rushing for 205 yards and scoring four touchdowns on runs of 3, 44 and 11 yards, plus a 67-yard kickoff return for a score, in a 44-6 rout of the visiting Jayhawks.

2023 HSSN Teams of the Week

Week 9 – South Side Rams

Week 8 – Central Valley Warriors

Week 7 – Mars Fightin’ Planets

Week 6 – Pine-Richland Rams

Week 5 – Moon Tigers

Week 4 – Thomas Jefferson Jaguars

Week 3 – Knoch Knights

Week 2 – Waynesburg Central Raiders

Week 1 – Aliquippa Quips

Week Zero – Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils


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