Westmoreland County high school football don’t-miss matchups for Week Zero

Wednesday, August 21, 2019 | 6:39 PM


Greensburg Salem at Hempfield

7 p.m. Friday, Spartan Stadium, Hempfield

Coaches: Dave Keefer, Greensburg Salem; Rich Bowen, Hempfield

Players to watch: Trent Patrick, Greensburg Salem (Sr., 5-9, 230, QB/LB); Nathan Roby, Hempfield (5-7, 155, RB/DB)

Last year: Greensburg Salem (4-7, 4-3), fourth place in Class 4A Big 8 Conference, lost to South Fayette in first round; Hempfield (3-7, 1-7), eighth in Class 6A

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Four downs: 1. Hempfield is more committed to the run this season, according to Bowen. The Spartans have a big and experienced front line led by Delaware recruit Fintan Brose (6-3, 280). 2. Roby was a difference-maker in last year’s 27-24 win for Hempfield against the Golden Lions at Offutt Field. He had two interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown. He also blocked an extra point and rushed for 66 yards. Sophomore Mario Perkins ran for 69 yards and a touchdown. 3. Patrick is a bruiser under center for Greensburg Salem and was one of the players who helped the Golden Lions end a six-year playoff drought. The team returns 11 starters, sparking optimism in the program. 4. Aaren Putt returns at running back for the Golden Lions. He ran for a game-high 83 yards against Hempfield last year and led the team with 631 yards for the season.

Extra point: Hempfield has won three in a row in the backyard rivalry, which reaches its 55th meeting Friday night.

Jeannette at East Allegheny

7 p.m. Friday, Churchman Stadium, North Versailles

Coaches: Roy Hall, Jeannette; Dom Pecora, East Allegheny

Players to watch: Jackson Pruitt, Jeannette (Sr., 6-1, 185, WR/DB); Tyler Padezan, East Allegheny (Sr., 6-1, 175, WR/DB)

Last year: Jeannette (11-1, 6-0), won Class A Eastern Conference, lost to Rochester in WPIAL semifinals; East Allegheny (6-5, 3-3), fourth in Class 2A Allegheny Conference, lost to Burgettstown in first round of WPIAL playoffs.

Four downs: 1. Jeannette will rely on a pair of siblings to play key roles in the backfield with first-year starting quarterback James Sanders and tailback Imani Sanders. 2. Pruitt will be a key two-way player and team leader, as will linemen Justin Cramer (6-0, 220) and Zach Crutchman (6-2, 240). 3. Padezan was one of the WPIAL’s busiest wide receivers last season as he pulled in 33 receptions for 674 yards and six touchdowns. He has Division I offers from St. Francis (Pa.), Rhode Island, Duquesne, Albany, William & Mary and others. He is one of two starters who return on defense for the Wildcats. 4. Jeannette is scheduled to play the first game on its new turf field at McKee Stadium next week against Leechburg in the Eastern Conference opener.

Extra point: Jeannette has more wins than any program in WPIAL football history with 747.

Latrobe at Derry

7 p.m. Friday, Trojans Stadium, Derry

Coaches: Jason Marucco, Latrobe; Tim Sweeney, Derry

Players to watch: Tucker Knupp, Latrobe (Jr., 6-1, 195, TE/LB); Max Malis, Derry (Sr., 6-3, 270, OL/DL)

Last year: Latrobe (4-7, 3-4), fifth in Class 5A Big East Conference, lost to Penn Hills in WPIAL first round; Derry (11-2, 7-1), co-champions of Class 3A Big East Conference, lost to Aliquippa in WPIAL championship

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Four downs: 1. Derry is coming off a WPIAL runner-up finish that saw the Trojans cap one of their most memorable seasons with a trip to Heinz Field for the title game. The Trojans have three consecutive conference titles. 2. Latrobe will rely on senior quarterback Branden Crosby, a second-year starter who accounted for more than 1,000 all-purpose yards as a junior. 3. The Trojans line could give opponents problems, led by Malis and senior Gavin Adams (6-4, 280). Both have Division I offers, Malis from Air Force and Adams from St. Francis (Pa.). 4. Senior running back Justin Huss did not play against Latrobe last year and missed five games with a broken leg. He figures to have a pronounced role for Derry.

Extra point: Derry won last year’s meeting at Latrobe, 45-15. The Trojans have won three consecutive games in the rivalry for the first time since 1985-87. They rushed for 209 yards in the win.

Southmoreland vs. Mt. Pleasant

7 p.m. Friday, Mt. Pleasant Stadium

Coaches: Dave Keefer, Southmoreland; Jason Fazekas, Mt. Pleasant.

Players to watch: Zach Cernuto, Southmoreland (Jr., 6-0, 175, QB/LB); Pete Billey, Mt. Pleasant (Jr., 6-2, 225, RB/DL)

Last year: Southmoreland (4-6, 2-5), finished sixth in Class 2A Interstate Conference; Mt. Pleasant (2-8, 2-6), finished eighth in Class 3A Big East Conference

Four downs: 1. Cernuto completed 129 of 255 passes for 1,909 yards and 19 touchdowns for the Scotties last season. The team will be looking for larger numbers, especially with leading receiver Riley Comforti (47 catches for 714 yards and nine touchdowns) returning. 2. Billey was slowed by an ankle injury in 2018 but still led the Vikings in rushing with 484 yards and four touchdowns. Billey, at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, will be a load to handle in the running game. 3. Look for senior Colt Harper and sophomore Anthony Govern to share the running back duties as the Scotties try to replace the 1,202 yards graduate Ronnie Robinson gave them in 2018. 4. Junior Asher O’Connor gets a chance to replace Lucas Pieszak at quarterback for Mt. Pleasant. O’Connor’s main receiver will be senior Jake Johnson, who had 43 catches for 911 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2018.

Extra point: Scoring points (33.2 per game) wasn’t a problem for the Scotties in 2018. Preventing points was. They allowed 33.5 points per game.

Monessen at Greensburg Central Catholic

7 p.m. Friday, Centurions Stadium, Greensburg

Coaches: Mikey Blainefield, Monessen; Bret Colbert, GCC

Players to watch: Isaiah Beltram, Monessen (Jr., 5-6, 145, QB/SB); Brandon Brown, GCC (Sr., 5-10, 170, WR/CB)

Last year: Monessen (7-3, 6-1), co-champions of Class A Tri-County South Conference, lost to Jeannette in WPIAL quarterfinals; GCC (7-3, 3-3), fourth in Class A Eastern Conference

Four downs: 1. Colbert takes the reins at GCC after the departure of Aaron Smetanka, now the coach at Saint Vincent. Colbert was an assistant at GCC the last two years. He planned to build on Smetanka’s schemes. 2. Blainefield, a Monessen grad, is in his third season. Last year, the Greyhounds nearly stunned top-seeded Jeannette in the quarterfinals at Hempfield before falling 18-14. 3. GCC looks to have a number of two-way playmakers but will need its line to mesh early to give newcomer Dave Altimore, a junior quarterback, and several potential running backs time to maneuver. 4. Monessen has to replace on-the-rise quarterback Devin Whitlock, who transferred to Belle Vernon after his freshman year.

Extra point: Monessen gave up just 12.3 points per game last season, the fourth-best average in Class A.

Yough at Serra Catholic

7 p.m. Friday, Eagle Stadium, McKeesport

Coaches: Scott Wood, Yough; Jose Regus, Serra Catholic

Players to watch: Gamal Marballie, Yough (Jr., 6-0, 180, WR); Max Rocco, Serra Catholic (So., 6-0, 160, QB/WR)

Last year: Yough (3-7, 3-5), finished sixth in the Class 3A Big East Conference; Serra Catholic (6-5, 4-3) finished third in the Class 2A Three Rivers Conference, lost to Shady Side Academy in the WPIAL first round

Four downs: 1. Yough must replace leading rusher Dustin Shoaf and his 1,968 yards and 18 touchdowns. Look for Marballie to get a lot of touches. 2. Rocco and sophomore Jayvon Holt are two talented wide receivers who new Eagles quarterback Pat Brennan will be targeting. 3. Yough tight end Russell Pytlak already has an offer from Seton Hill. He’s hoping to be one of the main receivers for the Cougars. 4. Ray Holmes averaged 8.4 yards per carry for the Eagles in 2018.

Extra point: After losing Shoaf and his 5,053 career yards rushing to graduation, the Cougars may rely on numerous players to pick up the offensive load.

District 6 Heritage Conference

Homer-Center at Ligonier Valley

7 p.m. Friday at Weller Field, Ligonier

Coaches: Greg Page, Homer-Center; Roger Beitel, Ligonier Valley

Players to watch: Ben Schmidt, Homer-Center (Jr., 6-0. 190, QB/S); Sam Sheeder, Ligonier Valley (Sr., 5-11, 185, QB/LB)

Last year: Ligonier Valley (12-1, 8-0) won the Heritage Conference title, won District 6 title, lost to Richland in the PIAA Class 2A first round; Homer-Center (7-4, 5-4), finished fourth in Heritage Conference

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Four downs: 1. Sheeder returns as starting quarterback position, a job that was his until a knee injury ended his season four games into last year. He caught 47 passes for 743 yards and seven touchdowns as a receiver in 2018. 2. Schmidt is beginning his third season as the Wildcats starting quarterback. He started his freshman season and helped the Wildcats win the District 6 Class A title and reach the PIAA championship in Hershey. He completed 79 of 153 passes for 1,128 yards and nine touchdowns in 2018. 3. The Rams offensive and defensive lines feature three seniors who have NCAA Division I offers: guard/tackle Michael Petrof, two-way tackle Christian Jablonski and tackle/end Wylie Spiker. 4. Homer-Center’s Cobe Daugherty caught a touchdown pass against the Rams in 2017. He heads the wide receiver corps. He caught 42 passes for 620 yards and scored five touchdowns in 2018.

Extra point: The Rams have won 28 consecutive Heritage Conference games and are favorites to win a fourth straight conference title.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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