Westmoreland County football notes: Greensburg Salem wary of TJ mystique
Thursday, October 17, 2019 | 5:11 PM
It’s just a name playing another game.
That is the way Greensburg Salem is trying to view vaunted Thomas Jefferson, the team that will visit Offutt Field Friday night in a WPIAL Class 4A Big Eight Conference game.
The idea is to shed the heavy armor, the Jaguars’ notorious reputation of dominance, and make them seem human — at least for a couple of hours on Friday night.
“They’re very good. They’re No. 1 team in the state,” Golden Lions coach Dave Keefer said. “We have to force them to beat us. We can’t let them beat us.”
The numbers the Jaguars (8-0, 5-0) have put up speak for themselves:
• 48.4 points per game; 4.1 allowed
• 435 yards per game
• 53 touchdowns
• 15 sacks and 13 interceptions.
Overcoming the TJ “brand” could be the key to at least staying close with the Jaguars, who have handled Greensburg Salem the last two years by scores of 48-0 and 70-21.
Keefer went with a theoretical approach this week at practice.
The dialogue went like this:
Keefer: Did you guys watch any college football (last) weekend?
Keefer: Which game?
Team: South Carolina-Georgia.
Keefer: Where was Georgia ranked?
Team: No. 3.
Keefer: And South Carolina?
Team: They weren’t.
South Carolina, of course, stunned Georgia, 20-17, in double overtime.
Cue the “Why not us?” theme for the Golden Lions.
“There’s that allure of TJ, the reputation of who they are,” Keefer said. “We have to get past that.”
Golden Lions senior quarterback Trent Patrick has bought into that line of thinking. After all, the Lions already scored one upset two weeks ago, 13-10 over then-No. 4 West Mifflin.
“We have to approach it like it’s any other game,” Patrick said. “We can’t change the way we play because of a name.”
Patrick noted the Golden Lions (4-4, 4-1) had productive opening drives against two other strong opponents in second-ranked South Fayette and No. 3 Belle Vernon.
“We went 17 plays against South Fayette but couldn’t get it in,” Patrick said. “Same thing with Belle Vernon. We had a score called back (by penalty).”
After last week’s 37-0 victory over Ringgold, the Golden Lions returned home and “changed the sign,” a team tradition that follows each victory.
A career victories monument outside of Offutt Field now says, “698.”
Only Jeannette, New Castle, Aliquippa and Washington have reached 700 wins in the WPIAL.
“One of the most important things we do here is change the sign,” Patrick said. “To be able to do it two (or more) times would be special.”
Week 8 will help to shake out more playoff qualifiers as the regular season winds into its final two weeks.
Derry (6-2) can clinch a spot in the crowded Class 3A Big East Conference with a win at Deer Lakes (3-5).
Mt. Pleasant’s hopes will likely come down to Week 9, even if the Vikings (3-5) win this week.
The top four teams in the 3A Big East qualify. Mt. Pleasant is in seventh place in the nine-team conference.
Greensburg Central Catholic (6-2) is finished with Class A Eastern Conference play, so the Centurions have to wait and see if they qualify for a wild-card spot. Remember, the Centurions were 7-3 last year and did not qualify with just the top two teams in each of the three Class A conferences guaranteed playoff spots, along with two third-place wild cards.
Norwin (2-6) is still alive for a spot in 6A but will need to win out and get a lot of help. The top six out of nine teams in the 6A conference advance.
Hempfield (6A) and Monessen (A) have been eliminated.
Westmoreland teams that have clinched WPIAL postseason spots are Penn-Trafford (7-1), Franklin Regional (4-2) and Latrobe (3-5) in 5A, Belle Vernon (6-1) and Greensburg Salem (4-4) in 4A, Southmoreland (5-3) in 2A and Jeannette (8-0) in A.
With two games remaining, including one against rival Clairton, Jeannette is on pace for another undefeated regular season. The Jayhawks have not accomplished that feat since 2011, but have 17 unbeaten and untied regular seasons in program history.
Jeannette has 42 playoff appearances, one behind Aliquippa’s WPIAL record.
The inaugural Bill Fralic Award is expected to be special. The award, which will be given to the WPIAL’s top lineman in honor of Fralic — the late Penn Hills, Pitt and NFL standout — has drawn plenty of interest. Organizers hope to announce six finalists Oct. 31 — Fralic’s birthday.
Dan Miller, a member of the William P. Fralic Foundation, said nominations are pouring in and a selection committee will soon narrow the list.
Miller also said a clay mold and cast for the trophy was approved.
An awards banquet is planned for December to announce the winner.
Jeannette senior linebacker Justin Cramer needs three tackles to reach 400 for his career. … Norwin senior quarterback Jack Salopek topped the 5,000-yard passing mark for his career after a 304-yard game last week in a 49-14 loss to Canon-McMillan. Salopek, who now has 5,614 yards, has thrown for 1,693 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. … Who will win the rushing title in Westmoreland County? Just one first down — 10 yards — separates Derry senior Justin Huss (1,169) and Ligonier Valley senior Kyrie Miller (1,159). … Franklin Regional returns home Friday night to play McKeesport. The Panthers have not played a home game in six weeks. … Ligonier Valley has not lost a conference game since 2015.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .