Trib HSSN Top 21 Stories of 2021: Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz ousted

Friday, December 31, 2021 | 11:08 PM

The year 2021 wasn’t one giant leap for mankind, but it was one big step back toward “normalcy” for all of us, especially the high school athletes from around the WPIAL.

They were able to do what they love to do, compete on area fields, courts, mats and pools. They did so in front of fans again as the return of the loud and raucous student bodies to various events was like hot cocoa on a frigid night.

As has become a year-end tradition, Trib HSSN winds down the year with a daily countdown and a look back at the top 21 WPIAL stories from the year 2021.

No. 3 – WPIAL history in Hershey

There were two historic weekends in Hershey for the WPIAL this past year. One was in June, the other in December.

For the first time, a WPIAL lacrosse team reached the PIAA finals when the Mars boys team played in the Class 2A state title match.

After winning a fifth straight WPIAL crown, the Fightin’ Planets defeated Hershey, Camp Hill Trinity and Bishop Shanahan to become the first team from District 7 to reach a boys or girls lacrosse championship match.

The marvelous Mars run ended with a loss to District 11 champion Allentown Central Catholic.

History was made again in the final month of the year when five WPIAL football champions won and advanced to the PIAA finals.

No district had ever sent more than four teams to the state football finals before.

Four of the five returned home with state gold to go with their district crowns as Mt. Lebanon in 6A and Penn-Trafford in 5A captured their first state titles, Central Valley repeated in Class 3A and it was PIAA championship No. 4 for Aliquippa after the Quips won it all in 4A.

Serra Catholic lost to state power Southern Columbia and returned with silver in 2A.

No. 2 – Splash Brothers

They will always be known as “The Splash Brothers” for what they accomplished in the pool and on the court in one week in March.

Alexander and Joseph Roth of Ellwood City made quite the splash in winning WPIAL championships in both swimming and basketball.

Alexander, then a junior, teamed with then freshman brother Joseph along with Graham Kralic and Sam Kline and won gold in the WPIAL 200-yard freestyle relay for Riverside. Ellwood City does not have a swim team, so they co-op with Riverside.

Joe Roth also won gold in the WPIAL 100-yard backstroke.

The two then hit the court a week later and helped the 11-seed Wolverines stun everybody when they knocked off top-seeded South Allegheny to win the school’s first WPIAL boys basketball crown.

No. 1 – Pine-Richland saga

It’s a story that broke in mid-April, was a big part of the news cycle over the next four months, and the story remains unfinished heading into 2022.

Eric Kasperowicz, one of the top football coaches in the WPIAL, was fired April 14, four months after leading Pine-Richland to WPIAL and PIAA football championships.

Administrators announced the move was made after an internal investigation had turned up accusations of hazing, bullying and intimidation inside the Rams football program.

Kasperowicz vehemently denied the accusation and later filed a lawsuit against the school district.

Petitions and protests in favor of the former coach were shot down as the administration moved forward in a search for a new coach.

Steve Campos was eventually hired and led the Rams to a 7-5 record and a berth in the WPIAL 5A semifinals.

He has since resigned as Pine-Richland football coach citing health concerns.

With changes in the school board, there is a belief that Kasperowicz might have the support to be hired back as Rams coach.

Stay tuned.

The rest of the countdown

4 through 6

No. 4 – St. Clair Stunner

No. 5 – Colts streak to record

No. 6 – Matheny magic

7 through 9

No. 7 – Reluctantly moving up

No. 8 – Beaver makes the perfect List

No. 9 – Scotties No-No

10 through 12

No. 10 – Droughts ended

No. 11 – All are welcome

No. 12 – Wonderful Warriors

13 through 15

No. 13 – Charging toward the record

No. 14 – State golden girl

No. 15 – Golden mat streak

16 through 18

No. 16 – How the west was won…again

No. 17 – One for the aged

No. 18 – Decade of dominance

19 through 21

No. 19 – Diamond dandies

No. 20 – Swimming streak continues

No. 21 – Play ball!

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