Westmoreland County high school football notebook: First-year QBs finding rhythm

Thursday, September 22, 2022 | 12:01 PM

First-year quarterbacks have embraced their role behind center and, as a result, some teams have not missed a beat offensively through a few weeks of the WPIAL season.

Ten area teams have a new quarterback, including Franklin Regional (2-1) with senior Roman Sarnic, who rushed for 126 yards on 28 carries in last week’s 16-7 upset of Class 5A No. 1 Gateway.

Penn-Trafford (3-1) has turned to senior Conlan Greene, who has become a dual threat of late. After attempting 30-plus passes in the first two games, he ran for 130 yards and two touchdowns in a 14-13 win over Belle Vernon (1-2), which has a first-year QB of its own in Braden Laux.

Southmoreland (2-2) has junior Kadin Keefer throwing jump-ball passes to junior Ty Keffer in an offense that has shown some flash of late.

Keefer hooked up with Keffer nine times for 159 yards and two scores last week.

“He has exceeded my expectations for a first-year starter,” Southmoreland first-year coach Tim Bukowski said of Keefer. “He’s making good decisions and becoming a leader for us. He has been in the system for three years, so he has waited his turn and he is taking advantage of the opportunity.”

Junior Payton Molter is guiding new coach Tom Paulone’s new offense at Jeannette. The Jayhawks broke through for their first win of the season last week against Frazier.

“Payton has evolved into a varsity starting quarterback,” Paulone said. “I am not surprised by his performance so far given his dedication towards his work this offseason, and his in-season preparation.

Payton has bought into our team focus of weekly improvement.”


• Senior Cody Rubrecht has been a force for Greensburg Salem (3-1), passing for 446 yards and rushing for 507 and nine touchdowns. Few players are as firmly at the center of opponents’ game plans as Rubrecht, who moved from wide receiver, where he caught 48 receptions for 1,010 yards and 13 TDs.

• Cole Chatfield, a sophomore, has taken the reins at Mt. Pleasant (3-1). His game management and ability to keep teams honest as a passer alongside top rusher Robbie Labuda, has allowed the Vikings to move the ball with confidence. Chatfield has thrown for 508 yards and five TDs.

• Another sophomore, John Wetzel, is under center at Latrobe. He has made some plays with his legs for the improved Wildcats (2-2), who like to run the ball with purpose.

“We like his poise and leadership,” coach Ron Prady said.

Norwin and Yough have experimented behind center. Norwin (1-3) started the season with senior Nick Urey, then turned to freshman Tristyn Tavares. Junior receiver Jackson Pons, though, has played some wildcat QB for the Knights.

Yough (2-2), meantime, has played both sophomore Raidon Kurida and senior Gavin Roebuck as it looks for consistency and balance under new coach Ben Hoffer.

Dlugos returns

Greensburg Central Catholic has welcomed junior Nick Dlugos back into the fold, at wide receiver and linebacker.

Dlugos (5-11, 180) broke his leg during track and field season and was slow getting back to football as he rehabbed the injury.

“It’s a huge boost getting Nicky back,” GCC coach Marko Thomas said. “He has also played some fullback for us. He is a big-time help on defense. He’s very smart and physical.”

Dlugos started the last two weeks.

Pons offered

Jackson Pons has seen time at wide receiver, quarterback and defensive back this season for Norwin, which explains why some schools are recruiting him as an “athlete.”

Pons, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound junior who also returns punts and kickoffs, now has interest from five Division I programs after he received a scholarship offer from Kent State.

Other schools Pons has announced offers from are Gardner-Webb, Mississippi State, Bowling Green, and Toledo.

Through three games, Pons had a team-high 14 receptions for 260 yards and four touchdowns, including a 90-yard score.

Getting his kicks

Franklin Regional Joey Bayne was among the favorites for player of the game last week when the Panthers upset No. 1 Gateway, 16-7.

Yes, the sophomore kicker.

Bayne kicked a career-high three field goals — from 27, 34 and 22 yards — in the impressive victory.

Bayne now leads the WPIAL with six field goals.

Run Vikes

It is no secret Mt. Pleasant is going to run the football.

The secret lies in opponents lining up and trying to stop it.

The running game has long been a staple in the Wing-T offense, which has undergone some tweaks in recent years but remains the team’s power source.

Mt. Pleasant (3-1) is averaging 40 points per game while pounding the ball at teams. They have rushed 129 times for 1,345 — 336.3 yards per game. That is compared to 508 passing yards.

Senior Robbie Labuda leads the WPIAL with 756 yards and eight touchdowns.

Extra points

Hempfield plays five of it last six regular season games at home. … Greensburg Central Catholic is averaging 38.5 points but allowing 35.3. The Centurions are averaging 377.5 yards a game. … Hempfield’s Jake Phillips leads Westmoreland County in passing. He is 55 of 71 for 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns. … Southmoreland’s Keffer and Noah Sanders of Jeannette lead the county receivers with 26 catches apiece. … Westmoreland teams are a combined 34-36 so far this season. … Norwin’s Nick Urey has an offer to play at Westminster.

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

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