WPIAL football player of the week — Week 11
Sunday, November 10, 2019 | 9:25 PM
With the coldest temperatures of the football season chilling the second Friday of the WPIAL postseason, most thought the below-freezing temps might prohibit teams from throwing the ball all over the frosty fields of Western Pa.
Pine-Richland football coach Eric Kasperowicz was not one of them.
“That’s what we do. The cold has zero impact on us being able to throw the football,” Kasperowicz said. “In 2017 when we won our first state championship, temperatures were in the teens and we threw it fine there, as well.
“Now wind and rain are a different story, though.”
Central Catholic might want to start hoping for rain now as it prepares to face Pine-Richland and red-hot quarterback Cole Spencer in the WPIAL Class 6A championship game Saturday night at Heinz Field.
Spencer was spectacular in beating North Allegheny on Friday.
“Cole was in total control of the offense on Friday night,” Kasperowicz said. “He has gotten better each week this year. My offensive coordinator, Ryan Lehmeier, really has a pulse on our offense right now, and they are playing very good football.”
Spencer connected on 21 of 27 passes for 361 yards.
“His accuracy has really improved and is now one of his strengths,” Kasperowicz said. “His completion percentage and touchdown-to-interceptions ratio is unheard of for a high school quarterback playing the level of football we play in.”
To go with all the yards thrown against the North Allegheny defense, Spencer had a scoring touch, as well. He threw touchdowns on passes of 27, 75, 44, 7, 49 and 26 yards.
“We don’t care how we score. Run or pass, really doesn’t matter,” Kasperowicz said. “It just so happened that we threw it a bunch on Friday night.”
Pine-Richland is one win away from a third straight WPIAL 6A championship.
Spencer had his worst game of the season in a Week 5 29-7 loss to the Vikings in which he threw for 179 yards and no touchdowns and was under pressure and on the run all night against the standout Central Catholic defense.
Kasperowicz feels the Pine-Richland offensive line is a key for Spencer to have success.
“Our offensive line, like a lot of our team, has improved so much since that first meeting,” Kasperowicz said. “We’ve made some personnel changes, and our kids have just really jelled since then.”
Despite being the two-time defending champ and having just knocked off a North Allegheny team that tied Pine-Richland and Central Catholic for first place in the 6A regular season, Kasperowicz feels his team is the underdog.
“Central is the clear favorite going into Saturday’s matchup,” Kasperowicz said. “They beat us pretty good back in September, but we are a different football team. That loss was the wake-up call we needed.”
WPIAL Week 11 Honorable Mentions:
Devari Robinson — McKeesport
Last week, Devari Robinson earned Trib HSSN Players of the Week honors based on his 235 yards rushing and a couple of touchdowns, including the winner in a comeback victory over Baldwin in the first round of the WPIAL football playoffs.
For an encore, Robinson orchestrated an upset over defending WPIAL and PIAA Class 5A champion Penn Hills in Friday’s quarterfinals.
Robinson rushed for 197 yards, giving him more than 400 yards rushing in two postseason games, plus he scored all five of his team’s touchdowns in a 35-20 win that put the Tigers in a semifinals game against rival Gateway.
Jared Hartman — Belle Vernon
Last year, South Fayette knocked off Belle Vernon in the WPIAL Class 5A semifinals 28-10 behind a big game by Lions quarterback Jamie Diven. The senior QB hit on 21 of 33 passes for 329 yards and three touchdowns.
Turnabout is fair play. In the Final Four rematch Friday, it was Belle Vernon knocking out the defending champs behind a stellar game from Leopards quarterback Jared Hartman.
The senior connected on 16 of 19 passes for 188 yards and a pair of touchdowns as Belle Vernon came from behind with a 20-point fourth quarter in a 41-30 victory for the Leopards’ first championship-game trip in 20 years.
Jax Miller — Avonworth
For all of you youngsters, there once was a game for kids called jacks that consisted of little metal jacks and a bouncing ball. For a certain Avonworth running back, racking up big yardage on the ground has become child’s play.
Senior Jax Miller continues to put up big numbers, even in the postseason as the Antelopes continue to rack up victories.
Miller rushed for 216 yards and scored on touchdown runs of 54 and 55 yards as Avonworth improved to 11-0 and advanced to the Class 2A semifinals with a 38-13 win over New Brighton.
2019 Trib HSSN football players of the week:
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