Westmoreland County high school football notebook: Norwin star makes move to QB

Saturday, October 22, 2022 | 2:20 PM

Essentially a fourth-string quarterback if he was ever a quarterback at all, Jackson Pons was the “break glass in case of emergency” guy at Norwin.

Only in a dire situation would the Knights think about moving their talented receiver under center.

Injuries and inconsistency plagued Norwin during this one-win season, however, so consider the glass broken.

Pons has moved to QB for the Knights (1-8), who have been looking for any type of spark in what has been a disappointing debut in Class 5A.

“We keep battling. We continue to fight. Every game, we think we have a chance,” said Pons, a junior Division I prospect who leads the team with 21 receptions for 337 yards and four touchdowns. “I had only played quarterback one game, in seventh grade.”

Pons did take QB reps in camp as Norwin installed a triple-option offense. But the offense proved more experimental than beneficial early on, and the Knights gravitated back to the spread.

They have lacked a running game.

“It’s been really fun (playing QB),” the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Pons said. “It takes a different level of confidence. I know I can do it. Moving me shows the coaches still want to win.”

Norwin coach Dave Brozeski said getting the ball in Pons’ hands is critical to any success the Knights have.

The Knights have used four quarterbacks. Nick Urey, Tristan Tavares and Luke Denny also have seen time. Urey spelled Pons on Friday in a 42-10 loss to Gateway and actually threw a touchdown to Denny.

Tavares, a freshman, looked like the starter but suffered an injury that brought Pons in the conversation.

“It’s a move we made that was best for the team, not the individual,” Brozeski said. “You have to find a way to get (Pons) touches.”

Heading into the Gateway game, Pons was 11 of 31 for 108 yards and a touchdown.

Colleges seem to be more interested in his defensive potential as a safety.

He has 42 tackles, two forced fumbles and four interceptions.

Pons has six Division I offers, the latest coming from Central Michigan.

His highlights from high school and from 7-on-7 competition have attracted scouts.

Pons said Mississippi State, Gardner-Webb, Bowling Green, Kent State and Toledo also have offered.

He plans to visit Mississippi State next month.

Only Bowling Green has specified it likes Pons as a receiver. The others are interested in him as a defensive back or “athlete.”

Pons said he would like to commit before his senior year.

“These schools have shown me a ton of love,” Pons said. “I want to go to a school that really wants me.”

Playoff teams

Add five local teams to the WPIAL playoff field. And put another on the proverbial bubble.

With wins or help Friday night, Latrobe (4A), Mt. Pleasant (2A), Southmoreland (2A), Jeannette (A) and Monessen (A) secured postseason berths.

They join these area teams that already clinched: Franklin Regional (5A), Belle Vernon (3A), Ligonier Valley (2A), and Greensburg Central Catholic (A).

Penn-Trafford (5A), the defending WPIAL and PIAA champion, remains in contention for a wild-card spot, but the Warriors will need to beat Franklin Regional next week to make it. Only eight teams in 5A qualify.

Hempfield, despite its sparkling 5-0 start, was eliminated from playoff contention with a loss to Plum.

Name game

Ligonier Valley and Derry will play next week to kick-start what the neighboring schools hope develops into a rivalry game.

The schools’ athletic directors believe the game needs a catchy name to get the communities excited for the opener and future showdowns in the WPIAL Class 2A Allegheny Conference.

They started an online voting campaign to name the matchup.

Among the choices suggested by the teams:

• Mayhem on the Mountain

• Riot on the Ridge

• Chestnut Ridge Rivalry

• Chestnut Ridge Bowl

• Battle for the Ridge

• Brawl on the Ridge

“(Derry athletic director) Brett (Miller) and I began talking as soon as the WPIAL released the schedule about getting some hype behind this game,” Ligonier Valley athletic director Joe Skura said. “We are glad we are playing each other because of the geographical distance. They are our neighbors, and it just makes sense. I know a lot of our athletes, and our community members, know people from Derry and vice versa, so it’s a fun competition between the two schools who really are in each other’s backyard. It’s definitely a backyard brawl.”

Skura said the plan is for the athletic directors to meet on the field after the game to present a rotating trophy and MVP.

No place like …

Ligonier Valley’s nickname is Rams, but they’ve been more like road warriors this season.

A lot has been made about the Rams’ success at Weller Field, their home venue. But the team is 5-0 on the road this season after Friday’s 42-7 win at Imani Christian.

Fab freshman

A WPIAL rookie of the year candidate is running wild in the Tri-County South.

How about freshman TyVaughn at Monessen?

Kershaw ran for 242 yards Friday. He is now over 1,000 yards for the season. The performance marked his third 200-plus-yard rushing game.

Martin hits the road

Belle Vernon star Quinton Martin helped lead the Leopards to a 48-0 rout of Southmoreland on Friday night then prepared for a road trip Saturday.

Martin, a five-star junior prospect who ran for 100 yards and a touchdown Friday, was set to visit Ohio State, which holds one of his 20-plus Division I Power-5 scholarships offers.

The Buckeyes host Iowa. Ohio State is one of six Big Ten schools that offered Martin, who plans to narrow his list to a top 10 in the near future.

Kimmel commits

Greensburg Central Catholic senior linebacker Ryan Kimmel announced he will continue his playing career at Bates College, a Division III school in Lewistown, Maine, that competes in the New England Small College Athletic Conference.

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Kimmel has 28 tackles, seven for loss, this season for GCC.

He was recruited as a defensive end.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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