With wealth of talented, experienced players, Pine-Richland football team sets bar high

Sunday, August 20, 2017 | 11:35 PM

It wouldn't take a crystal ball to predict that the offense for the Pine-Richland football team is going to be explosive this season. Judging by the standard set by the Rams in previous seasons, it's almost to be expected.

However, with the talent and experience that Pine-Richland has accrued at the skill positions, it wouldn't be a stretch to assume that this year's offensive unit could chart new territory in the program's record book.

Adding one of the WPIAL's top running backs won't hurt the Rams' chances. West Allegheny transfer Kenny White joins a backfield that already features senior Jordan Crawford. White ran 1,313 yards and 19 touchdowns for the Indians, and Crawford rushed for 727 yards and caught 46 passes for 517 yards on his way to 16 total touchdowns.

Then there's senior quarterback Phil Jurkovec, who passed for 1,673 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushed for 481 yards and eight scores in six games before his 2016 season was cut short by injury. The Notre Dame commit will throw to senior Raymond Falcone, who led the WPIAL in receptions (65) and receiving yards (1,391) last year.

But as coach Eric Kasperowicz said, it all starts with the offensive line.

“There's only one football,” Kasperowicz said. “Some days it's going to be Ray's day. Some days it's going to be Kenny, and other days it's going to be Phil, Jordan, Jason DeFrancisis, or somebody else. We've got seven, eight or nine guys that can steal the show on any given night.

“But none of that goes without the offensive line. We've got a great group up there with three returning starters, so we'll look at them to help us get off to a good start this season.”

A pair of juniors, Andrew Kristofic (6-foot-6, 255 pounds) and Michael Katic (6-3, 280), will bookend the offensive line at the tackle spots, and junior center Michael Durondo leads the interior. Kasperowicz said all three project as Division I recruits.

For the two guard positions, seniors Parker Boyd, Dave Hodgin and Peyton Byrd and sophomore Trent Miller are competing for playing time. While the line's job is to open holes, it will be the coaching staff that is tasked with divvying up touches between their talented ball carriers.

In order to utilize his offensive talent more efficiently, Kasperowicz said he might have taken inspiration from Pitt's former offensive coordinator Matt Canada's offense from last season.

“It's very, very similar yet very different. It's the same thought process when it comes to getting different guys the ball in space while using different ‘eye candy,' per se, to distract the defense,” Kasperowicz said.

“They're more of a pro-style offense, though, while we're spread out and up-tempo. But the same philosophy is behind it.”

The defense also has experience, with nine starters returning. Given the talent and experience on the roster, the Rams' expectations remain high.

“It's a very senior-laden group,” Kasperowicz said. “They've all been around for a pretty long time, and they've all been successful.

“This is what they've been waiting for. They're going to create their legacy here at Pine-Richland and what they're known for. We definitely have high standards and expectations, and I know those guys do as well.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.


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