Westmoreland high school football notebook: Norwin, Derry on opposite sides of forfeit/no-contest rule

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Saturday, September 25, 2021 | 6:38 PM


Call it a WPIAL dichotomy, the concept of forfeits and no-contests in covid-19 times.

Two area teams are on separate sides of the issue after they had to cancel games because of covid protocols.

Norwin was dealt a loss without playing, and Derry was not penalized for sitting out.

Norwin decided against playing Class 6A opponent Seneca Valley on Friday because a number of Norwin players were awaiting results from contact tracing. Some students, Norwin athletic director Mike Burrell said, are showing covid symptoms, and several others have tested positive at the school.

Bottom line: Norwin had to forfeit.

The Knights (2-3, 0-2) still could have fielded a full lineup Friday but chose to err on the side of caution and not put younger players in situations that might jeopardize their safety.

Under new WPIAL guidelines, having enough players but not playing must result in a forfeit.

“It has definitely been a tough week,” Norwin coach Dave Brozeski said. “We resumed practice (Thursday) with players that are available and our focus is preparing for our next conference game against Baldwin. We control how we respond to this situation, and I am confident that our team will respond positively.”

The forfeit stings even more because Norwin was the only 6A team last year that did not have a game affected by covid.

Derry, meanwhile, fell under a different umbrella in a rule book where the ink hasn’t dried.

Down to 28 players because of injuries and contact tracing — athletic director Brett Miller confirmed players and coaches had been exposed to someone who tested positive for covid — and a team shutdown, the Trojans (0-4, 0-1) could not play a game at Freeport.

Derry won’t return to practice until Tuesday.

Trojans coach Vince Skillings said the focus now shifts to next week’s game against Southmoreland.

“All we can do now is pray that this doesn’t repeat itself, or have an effect on our possibly making a trip to the playoffs,” Skillings said. “The quarantine sets us back in that the players loose a week of practice and preparation. We had made some adjustments offensively and defensively that we’d hoped to make this week which will now have to be done on a possibly very short week. I believe we’re about to turn the corner in getting things on the right track.”

All told through five weeks, four games in the WPIAL were deemed no contests, and eight resulted in forfeits.

Whitlock’s walk-off

The play everyone is talking about is Belle Vernon quarterback Devin Whitlock’s 40-yard touchdown run Friday with 4.5 seconds remaining that beat Thomas Jefferson, 28-21.

Whitlock, who didn’t want to bring overtime into play — the touchdown burst came on fourth-and-13 — made a sudden change of direction and left Jaguars’ defenders in the dust.

Senior Cole Weightman and sophomore Jake Gedekoh delivered key blocks to open an inside running lane for Whitlock, whose highlight made its rounds on social media.

Martin injured

Belle Vernon lost star sophomore Quinton Martin in its thrilling victory. Martin went down with a left knee injury midway through the third quarter and did not return.

He had a 50-yard touchdown run and also scored on an 87-yard kickoff return.

Martin appears to be all right. He tweeted Saturday the injury was “not as severe as I initially thought.”

“I just wanted to let everyone know that I am 100% okay and I appreciate all the love and support,” he added.

Leopards coach Matt Humbert said Martin was in better spirits Saturday.

”He’s going to see how it feels and then reevaluate it on Monday,” Humbert said. “Nothing bone-related. If he doesn’t feel well on Monday, he will need to get an MRI.”

Belle Vernon (4-0, 2-0), now the top-ranked team in WPIAL Class 4A, hosts Laurel Highlands (5-0, 2-0) next week.

Reese’s pieces

Mt. Pleasant junior quarterback Tyler Reese returned to the lineup Friday and helped lead the Vikings to a thorough, 34-7 win over Southmoreland. Reese threw for 115 yards and a touchdown, and returned an interception 73 yards for another score.

Coaches moved him to safety from corner on third-and-long possessions. His impact was instantaneous.

“I was texting with him (before the game), and I told him big players make big plays in big games,” Vikings coach Jason Fazekas said. “That is what he did for us.

“Our defense was great tonight, too. That’s a credit to our coaches for having us prepared.”

LV banged up

Ligonier Valley has looked impressive on its way to a 5-0 start. But the Rams face some key injury issues as they prepare to open conference play next week.

“Lost another dude,” Rams coach Roger Beitel said Friday night after his team’s 62-12 victory over Carrick.

Ryan Harbert injured his shoulder in the first half and did not return. The first-year varsity player is one of the team’s top tacklers.

Junior quarterback and defensive back Hayden Sierocky is out with a broken arm, and senior tight end/linebacker Miles Higgins has a knee injury.

The fifth-ranked Rams’ first Allegheny Conference test will be a road trip to play Steel Valley (4-0) in one of the top 2A matchups in Week 5.

GS-Hampton

Greensburg Salem and Hampton used to be conference opponents, and the teams are back to playing meaningful games against one another.

No. 5 Hampton (5-0, 2-0) will host the Golden Lions (4-1, 2-0) next Friday in Allison Park with first place on the line in the 4A Big Eight Conference.

Greensburg Salem is riding its first four-game winning streak since 2016.

WPIAL passing leader Hayden Teska continues to make big throws. He was 14 of 28 for 277 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-14 win over Indiana, including a 70-yard bomb to Jayden Stevens to put the Golden Lions ahead for good.

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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