Westmoreland County football notes: GCC coach ready for close-up look at record-breaking back Ben Jackson

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Thursday, October 31, 2019 | 5:37 PM


Greensburg Central Catholic first-year football coach Bret Colbert mentioned recently he was eager to see West Greene senior running back Ben Jackson play, even as a casual observer, to see what all the hype is about.

Jackson has rushed for a WPIAL-best 2,711 yards and a league single-season record 46 touchdowns for the Pioneers.

Colbert had his request granted when the WPIAL paired GCC (7-3) and West Greene (9-1) in the opening round of the Class A playoffs.

West Greene hosts the Centurions at 7 p.m. Friday.

Colbert is eager to draw up a plan to slow Jackson, who averages an incredible 17.2 yards per carry.

He has gone over 200 yards in eight games and has topped 300 yards three times.

“As a fan of football, I’m very excited to watch this matchup,” Colbert said. “As an opposing coach, I am much less eager. He’s averaging almost one-fifth of the field per carry. That’s unheard of.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us. Our guys are excited for the challenge.”

GCC, the third-place wild card out of the Eastern Conference, returned to the playoffs after three years away. West Greene won the Tri-County South with a 7-0 mark, averaging 50.2 points per game.

Record-breakers

Playoff runs notwithstanding, this football season in Westmoreland County will be remembered for record-breaking performances.

Consider: Hempfield’s Nathan Roby and Ligonier Valley’s Kyrie Miller became their school’s all-time leading rushers. They also set season and career marks in yards and touchdowns.

Derry running back Justin Huss broke the Trojans’ single-game rushing mark in two consecutive weeks.

Norwin quarterback Jack Salopek became the first passer from the county to throw for 6,000 career yards. He also set the Norwin single-season mark for passing yardage.

Southmoreland quarterback Zach Cernuto, a junior, broke his school’s career passing record. His top receiver, Riley Comforti, set a single-season mark for catches.

Openers to watch

Eight-team brackets make for some of the best opening matchups in the WPIAL playoffs, and the Class 3A and A fields are no exception this year.

Two such matchups feature local teams and are worth checking out.

Fourth-seeded Derry (8-2) hosts No. 5 Beaver Falls (8-2) in 3A, and No. 6 Jeannette (9-1) visits No. 3 Sto-Rox (9-1) in Class A.

Derry and Beaver Falls both average over 30 points and rely on strong running games.

Jeannette has a number of playmakers, but its defense will be tested by Sto-Rox’s passing attack led by quarterback Eric Wilson, who is second in the WPIAL with 2,509 passing yards and 23 touchdowns.

Sto-Rox averages 42.3 points per game, and Jeannette 41.9.

Youth to varsity

Franklin Regional senior center/defensive tackle Anthony Bonacci said a lot has been made of Moon football’s success at the youth level.

Franklin Regional (4-4) visits Moon (8-2) on Friday night in the Class 5A first round.

“We hear about how good they were in middle school,” Bonacci said, “but people don’t realize how good we were, too. We were undefeated, and I think (running back) Zac Gordon scored every single point. I’m not kidding.

“It’s going to be a good matchup and a good fight up front.”

Davis anniversary

It has been 100 years since one of the more memorable games in Greensburg football history. In 1919, Greensburg High School great Robert Davis scored seven touchdowns, including a 70-yard punt return, as the Golden Lions toppled Apollo, 61-0, in the season opener.

Recruiting

Jeannette senior wide receiver and defensive back Jackson Pruitt received a scholarship offer to play at Division II Alderson Broaddus in Philippi, W. Va. Hempfield senior linebacker Dillon Ferretti was offered by Division II Clarion.

Coaches of the week

Steelers Youth Football recognized Greensburg Central Catholic coach Bret Colbert as its Week 5 Coach of the Week. Southmoreland’s Dave Keefer received the same honor for Week 4.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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