Westmoreland high school football notes: P-T, Pine-Richland meet for just 2nd time, and stakes are high

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Saturday, October 31, 2020 | 4:58 PM


Penn-Trafford at Pine-Richland is an intriguing matchup in next week’s WPIAL Class 5A semifinal.

Two well-structured, well-coached programs with a winning tradition.

“We’re both like the New England Patriots because everything is so in order,” Warriors quarterback Ethan Carr said. “Things don’t change much.”

But similarities aside, there isn’t much history to this matchup.

The Warriors (6-1) and Rams (7-0) have played each other only one time, in the 2015 Class AAAA semifinals.

Penn-Trafford won 38-34 in a classic that sent the Warriors to the championship against Central Catholic.

The Warriors’ Brett Laffoon threw a 20-yard pass to Tyler Bruno with 5 seconds remaining for the winning score.

Quarterback Phil Jurkovec, the starter at Boston College this season, was a sophomore for the Rams.

Jurkovec passed for 178 yards and rushed for 111, and Laffoon went 19 of 32 for 293 yards and three touchdowns.

But these are two different teams.

“They’re the No. 1 team in the state,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said of the Rams. “Everyone knows how good they are. Coach (Eric) Kasperowicz always has his team ready, and they know how to win football games.”

Pine-Richland has played in Class 6A since 2016 and won WPIAL titles in ‘17 and ‘18.

The Rams dropped to 5A this season.

Penn-Trafford might be an underdog but maybe not by much.

Pine-Richland averages 50.7 points, Penn-Trafford 45.4.

Fourth-seeded Penn-Trafford took care of No. 5 Upper St. Clair, 35-7, Friday night, and the top-seeded Rams flattened No. 8 South Fayette, 47-7.

“It’s a big challenge,” said Carr, who ran for 188 yards and two touchdowns in the quarterfinal. “But it’s just another game. We have to put ourselves in a position to win.”

Cade Yacamelli ran for 118 yards and two TDs Friday.

Penn-Trafford’s defense is one of the best in the class, led by a ball-hawking secondary.

Seven Warriors have 28 or more tackles, including Chase Vecchio with 34 and two interceptions.

“It should be a fun game,” Vecchio said. “We’re ready to roll.”

Pine-Richland quarterback Cole Spencer was 14 of 18 for 170 yards and three touchdowns Friday and set the Rams’ career passing TDs record with 75, besting Ben DiNucci’s mark of 72.

DiNucci is the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. Jurkovec threw 71 TD passes for the Rams.

Defensive end Miguel Jackson also set a program record with his 30th career sack.

Before Penn-Trafford began to dissect its next challenge, players and coaches stopped to reflect.

“We’re really appreciative of the fact that we’re still playing,” Ruane said. “We live another week together. This (coronavirus pandemic) has really put everything in perspective.”

road trips

All three Westmoreland teams still alive in the postseason will hit the road next week.

In addition to Penn-Trafford going 35 miles up the Turnpike to Pine-Richland, Jeannette (Class A) and Belle Vernon (4A) will travel.

The Jayhawks (7-1) will cover 60 miles one way to play Rochester (7-1), and Belle Vernon (6-1) has about a 55-mile trek to Aliquippa (8-0).

The WPIAL allowed higher-seeded teams to play at home through the semifinals.

One interesting note with the home-field advantage: Rochester and Aliquippa play on natural-grass fields. Jeannette and Belle Vernon play on turf.

semi-sweet

Penn-Trafford is in the semifinals for the sixth time in eight years.

Belle Vernon has made the semis four consecutive times, and Jeannette is in the final four for the fifth time in the past six seasons.

double trouble

Penn-Trafford and Belle Vernon had a pair of 100-yard rushers in their quarterfinal wins.

For Belle Vernon, Devin Whitlock had 174 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries, and Quinton Martin ran for 147 yards and two scores on 17 carries in a 49-21 win over Chartiers Valley.

wehner scores

Central Catholic freshman Payton Wehner checked in at quarterback early in the second quarter Friday night and made an immediate impact. The North Huntingdon native scored on a 4-yard run as the Vikings defeated Mt. Lebanon, 35-0, to advance to the Class 6A championship.

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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