WPIAL Football Team of the Week: Week 7

Tuesday, October 15, 2019 | 12:45 AM

Two weeks ago, the defending Class 6A WPIAL champions took a big punch, needed the ropes to stay upright and lost a unanimous decision to Central Catholic.

In Week 7, in a big showdown for a share of second place and to keep its conference championship hopes alive, Pine-Richland came out punching early and delivered a knockout punch to Mt. Lebanon.

The Rams scored 34 points in the first half on their way to a 41-0 shutout of the Blue Devils.

“It was obviously big for us to start fast the way we did on Friday,” Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz said. “That is something our program takes pride in. We are an up-tempo program and try to be efficient and fast in all we do.”

Kasperowicz said the big road victory at Mt. Lebanon was a total team effort in all three phases of the game.

“We still have a lot of areas to improve,” Kasperowicz said. “That was one of the more complete games we played all year.”

An example of shining in all three aspects is Rams star running back Luke Meckler. He did not put up any gaudy stats, but his coach was very happy with everything he did.

“Luke is a tremendous athlete and sparked us in all three phases Friday,” Kasperowicz said. “Luke ran the ball and caught a few passes and that’s what everybody looks at, but he was outstanding on defense and especially special teams.”

While the entire Rams team was shining bright, the star of the game was quarterback Cole Spencer. The junior hit on 19 of 26 passes for 308 yards and four touchdowns.

“Cole was tremendous Friday night,” Kasperowicz said. “He was in complete control of our offense and looked extremely comfortable. He has continued to get a little better each week since the beginning of the season.

“Any time a quarterback plays well, that usually means he had help around him, though. Our offensive line played their best game, I thought, and the receivers and running backs played well also.”

The shutout for Pine-Richland was its third of the season. Their defense has allowed only 66 points, the best in Class 6A and the fifth fewest in the WPIAL.

“The No. 1 thing we ask of the defense is to give relentless effort on every snap,” Kasperowicz said. “Other than the Central game, I am very happy with how our defense has played this year.”

The Rams’ play has been impressive since losing to Central Catholic, 29-7, in Week 5. In back-to-back wins since that loss to the Vikings, Pine-Richland outscored Canon-McMillan and Mt. Lebanon, 104-7.

“That was the best thing to happen to us,” Kasperowicz said. “Its human nature that when you are having success and winning to get complacent, and I think as a program we did. That is on me to not let that happen.”

With the victory, Pine-Richland improved to 7-1 overall and 5-1 in Class 6A. They remain tied for second place with Central Catholic, a game behind front-running North Allegheny.

The Rams host the Tigers in Week 9 but first will travel north to Seneca Valley (3-5) for a game against the struggling Raiders.

Could this be a trap game for the Rams?

“I think we learned our lesson against Central and since then, it is a one-game season and all we care about is going 1-0,” Kasperowicz said. “Seneca Valley is our only focus this week. We played them for the WPIAL championship last year, so they are a very good team that will be ready to play.”

2019 Trib HSSN football teams of the week:

Week Six – Baldwin

Week Five – McGuffey

Week Four – Canon-McMillan

Week Three - Freedom

Week Two – Central Valley

Week One – Moon

Week Zero – New Castle


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