Westmoreland H.S. football notebook: Leechburg impresses with win over GCC
Saturday, September 12, 2020 | 5:53 PM
If there was a local score that turned heads on the opening night of the high school football season, it was probably this one:
Leechburg 55, Greensburg Central Catholic 37.
Sure, it was the highest-scoring game in the state, but it also was a big upset.
GCC came into the season ranked No. 3 in Class A — ahead of Jeannette — and looked like it would be a handful for opponents in the Class A Eastern Conference.
But Leechburg, which gave the Centurions all they could handle last season before falling 42-41, wasn’t having it.
Suddenly, GCC is reeling after the upset loss.
The Centurions were ravaged by penalties but could not make defensive stops. They were not surprised by Leechburg’s effort, or the team’s “Air Raid” offense under new coach Randy Walters.
It was a 21-21 game in the second quarter. The first quarter was scoreless,
“The penalties were mostly legit,” GCC coach Bret Colbert said. “I never blame the refs. I don’t know if stunned is the word. They were good last year and are better this year. They’ve got some guys that can run and a tough quarterback who can run and throw.”
Leechburg has the longest playoff drought in the WPIAL at 31 years. Southmoreland held that dubious distinction until last year when it qualified for the first time since 1979.
GCC is hoping to be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference but will have to overcome the early misfire.
“We didn’t run an offensive play for what seemed like a half-hour,” Colbert said. “If we don’t have the penalties, it’s a different game. We’ll correct the mental and physical mistakes and get ready for Imani (Christian next week).”
Jeannette started a ninth grader at quarterback Friday night, the first time that has happened in the storied history of the WPIAL’s most winning program.
Brad Birch looked poised under pressure and continually escaped a pass rush from Clairton, the No. 1 team in the state. Birch completed 21 of 28 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns, two to senior James Sanders, who was the Jayhawks’ quarterback last season and threw for more than 1,300 yards.
It was a debut that had people talking after the game.
“He didn’t take a big step forward. He took a giant leap,” Jeannette coach Roy Hall said of Birch. “He made some nice throws. He has an edge to him. He does things juniors and seniors don’t do.”
Sweeney wins opener
Former Derry coach Tim Sweeney is off to a fast start at Baldwin, where he landed after leaving his alma mater last year.
Baldwin defeated Hollidaysburg, 27-7, in a nonconference game. The Highlanders were supposed to play Mt. Lebanon, but that program suspended activities because of covid-19.
Junior Devin Whitlock ran for 239 yards to pace Belle Vernon to a 20-0 win over Class 4A No. 2 McKeesport on Friday. Belle Vernon was just as impressive defensively, handing the Tigers, who played in Class 5A last season, their first shutout loss since 2014 (28-0 vs. Penn-Trafford).
A pair of middle linebackers helped stuff the Tigers’ triple-option attack.
Rising Cole Weightman finished with 15 tackles, and teammate Jack Bryer added 14 for Belle Vernon, the WPIAL runner-up last season.
McKeesport coach Matt Miller said, “They kicked our butts.”
Penn-Trafford stacked up big play after big play in its 48-14 win over Latrobe.
Four scoring plays covered 60 or more yards. Chase Vecchio had a 67-yard reception from Ethan Carr, who threw for three scores, Cade Yacamelli had a 75-yard scoring run, Chris Popovich caught a 63-yard TD pass, and Brad Ford scored on a 99-yard run.
Ford’s score was the longest in Penn-Trafford history, besting Chris Schneider’s 98-yard run in 1993. That game was the first for former Warriors star quarterback Tony Zimmerman.
Penn-Trafford will travel to play No. 3 Peters Township next week. Peters has knocked the Warriors out of the playoffs the last two years.
He said it
“If we’re on different sides of the bracket for the playoffs, we’ll probably see them down at the big house.” — Clairton coach Wayne Wade on possibly playing Jeannette again.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
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