Westmoreland notebook: Football realignment brings more local matchups

Saturday, February 1, 2020 | 8:38 PM

The WPIAL hit the refresh button on football schedules last week and revealed some intriguing matchups for 2020.

In Westmoreland County, teams that have not met for a while, or at all, will play each other next season.

Some notable matchups in Week 1 (Sept. 4) include Penn-Trafford at Hempfield, Norwin at Latrobe, Kiski Area at Franklin Regional, and Greensburg Salem at Connellsville.

“It’s good to play some local teams,” Hempfield coach Rich Bowen said. “Hopefully, it will create some interest early in the season. I also like having three nonconference games before conference play.”

Interesting games in Week 2 (Sept. 11) have Ligonier Valley at Jeannette, Hempfield at Franklin Regional, Mt. Pleasant at Greensburg Salem and Belle Vernon at Penn-Trafford.

“They did a good job of matching teams and with geography,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said.

Greensburg Salem is a win shy of 700 and hopes to reach the milestone early in the season.

Realignment seems to better suit the Golden Lions, who finally are away from Thomas Jefferson and Belle Vernon.

“It shook out like I thought,” Golden Lions coach Dave Keefer said. “It’s relatively the Greater Allegheny Conference we used to play in, minus a couple teams and adding Plum. I appreciate what the WPIAL did with trying to make the crossover games more geographical.”

Southmoreland, now in Class 3A, will play at Derry on Oct. 2 (Week 5).

The WPIAL’s aim with the new schedule was to create better nonconference matchups and lessen travel.

“I’m very much on favor of it,” Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta said. “Close rivalries. Hopefully better gates. Great competition.”

Franklin Regional has to play at Bethel Park, which bucked the new trend a bit. But at least the Panthers play a full schedule unlike last year when they had eight regular-season games.

Not all Week Zero games (Aug. 28) have been revealed as schools can schedule that opponent on their own, although Hempfield at Greensburg Salem, Plum at Franklin Regional, Indiana at Ligonier Valley and Norwin at Penn-Trafford are set.

Ruokonen joining Dukes

Belle Vernon senior Hunter Ruokonen accepted a preferred walk-on offer to play football at Duquesne.

Ruokonen had 25 receptions for 371 yards and eight touchdowns and made 38 tackles with two interceptions for the Leopards (10-2), who made the WPIAL Class 4A championship game.

Signing day

Football signing day is Wednesday for NCAA Division I and II players who did not sign during the early period in December.

A number of local seniors will make their commitments official with D-II programs.

They include:

• Zach Crutchman, Jeannette (OL/DL, Cal, Pa.)

• Dillon Ferretti, Hempfield (LB, Mercyhurst)

• Max Malis, Derry (OL/DL, Mercyhurst)

• Paul Newill, Hempfield (OL/DL, Seton Hill)

• Jalen Page, Greensburg Salem (RB/DB, Cal, Pa.)

• Aaren Putt, Greensburg Salem (RB, Seton Hill)

• Russell Pytlak, Yough (TE/DE, Mercyhurst)

• Nathan Roby, Hempfield (RB/DB, Clarion)

• Gage Rogge, Belle Vernon (FB/DE, Cal, Pa.)

• Kyle Silk, Ligonier Valley (QB/LB/ATH, Lock Haven)

• Ryan Thomas, Greensburg Salem (TE, Seton Hill)

• Cavan Trout, Greensburg Salem (WR/LB, IUP)

Sanders chooses program

Jeannette senior football player Imani Sanders announced he will sign up for the new Steel City Prep program, which offers assistance in football training and academics, while also helping prospects find a place to play in college. Athletes pay tuition but are promised college exposure and get to play games against similar programs and do not lose NCAA eligibility.

Sanders was a running back and defensive back for the Jayhawks.

Summerhill to Edinboro

Logan Summerhill, a senior basketball player at Franklin Regional, signed to play at Edinboro. The 6-foot-4 swingman leads the Panthers in scoring this season at 17.4 points per game.

More recruiting

Norwin’s Logan Huss signed to run track at Pitt-Johnstown.

• Alaina Jenkins of Franklin Regional will continue her bowling career at Robert Morris.

• Hempfield quarterback Blake Remaley picked up an offer from Cal (Pa.).

• Ligonier Valley quarterback/linebacker Sam Sheeder grabbed an offer from Edinboro.

• IUP offered Belle Vernon senior running back Larry Callaway III.

Greensburg Central Catholic football players Brandon Brown (WR/DB) and Zach Kuvinka (RB/LB) are headed to Washington & Jefferson and Saint Vincent, respectively.

• Belle Vernon senior Anthony Sauritch (TE/DE) will play at Juniata.

Yough soccer player Amber Biros committed to Carlow.

• Norwin swimmer Phong Tran will continue his career at Stevens Institute of Technology.

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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