Westmoreland County high school football notebook: Hempfield gets new left tackle as injuries hit lineup

Thursday, September 21, 2023 | 6:14 PM

Hempfield is making some position changes work because of injuries. Rising talent Brock Heisler, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound sophomore tight end and long snapper, has been a part of the on-the-fly adjustments.

The Spartans (1-3), who play at Penn-Trafford (1-3) on Friday night in the Class 5A Big East opener, have needed Heisler to move around offensively, as evidenced by his number switch from No. 5 to 55.

Senior left tackle Rafael Batista is out with a torn ligament in his finger, and junior right tackle Owen Linsenbigler has a shoulder injury. That forced first-year coach Nick Keefer to get creative with his lineup.

Heisler impressed Keefer last week against Shaler.

“Our offensive line coaches, Joel Dolinski and Dave Murray, did a great job getting him caught up this past week,” Keefer said. “I think he has a lot of potential, and I am excited to see him continue to improve as he will be in the rotation again this week (at left tackle).”

Keefer and his staff also moved freshman Jake Weiderstein and junior running back Ethan Zontak to guard spots and Heisler to tackle.

Senior Marcus Smith also worked into the rotation for the Spartans.

The scoop on ‘Scoop’

Norwin (2-2, 1-0) will get a close-up look at one of the WPIAL’s top wide receivers Friday night. 

Sophomore William “Scoop” Smith of Woodland Hills (2-2, 1-0) has been a thrilling playmaker through four weeks.

And he is already a Division I prospect, with offers.

Smith is tied for the WPIAL reception lead with 29 — for 579 yards and nine touchdowns.

He had 34 receptions for 587 yards and eight touchdowns last season.

Last week, Smith had 10 catches for 210 yards and three TDs.

While his size is intriguing — he is 5-foot-6, 140 pounds — Smith makes up for it with his hands and breakaway speed.

Colleges don’t seem too concerned about his size, either. Smith has scholarship offers from Temple, Nebraska, Toledo and UNLV. He also has a basketball offer from Stony Brook.

Smith likely will run into Jackson Pons a few times. Pons, Norwin’s standout senior safety, had 14 tackles (five for loss) and an interception in a 30-23 win over Plum.

More TV for BV

Belle Vernon continues to attract air time.

The defending WPIAL and PIAA 3A champions (3-0) have another regionally televised game Friday when they host longtime rival Thomas Jefferson (4-0).

Pittsburgh’s CW, the sister station to KDKA and also known as KDKA+, will air the game from James Weir Stadium.

Belle Vernon and Penn-Trafford were featured on 22 The Point last week. The previous week, the Leopards had the KDKA Game of the Week when it played McKeesport.

Remembering ‘Hookum’

The Jeannette football team attended the viewing for Arthur “Hookum” Graves on Wednesday night, paying their respects to the longtime Jayhawks assistant coach.

Jeannette will honor Graves with a moment of silence Friday night when it hosts Charleroi.

An Air Force veteran and avid motorcycle enthusiast, Graves also coached in the Jeannette Midgets youth organization.

He served as the “get-back” coach for the varsity, meaning he made sure coaches and players stayed within the boundaries of the sideline, adhered to sideline rules and stayed out of the referees’ way.

He was with the team when it won WPIAL and PIAA titles. He left the program when Roy Hall retired in 2021.

Hall called Graves “a legend.”

Early leaders

A glance at the statistics through four weeks shows Norwin’s Tristyn Tavares, Da’sjon Craggette of Southmoreland and Ty Keffer of Southmoreland are the top passer, rusher and receiver in Westmoreland County.

Tavares has completed 50 of 100 passes for 783 yards and nine touchdowns, Craggette has 585 yards rushing and seven scores and Keffer has 22 receptions for 273 yards and three TDs.

Math problem

Low roster numbers continue to keep the Jeannette coaching staff in a state of unease.

Coach Tommy Paulone said he will have 22 players in uniform Friday night against Charleroi. Due to illness, he had only 16 at a practice this week.

“We will never make an excuse for our team or program,” Paulone said. “We will coach up our guys to make sure the best 11 are out there ready to go on Fridays.”

Paulone does not think slim numbers will plague the program down the line.

“We have had good progress with our newly renewed middle school program to supplement our incoming numbers for future years,” he said.

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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