WPIAL Friday Night HighLights – Week Six

Saturday, October 10, 2015 | 11:25 AM

While the mercury continues to dip as October and autumn settle in, the lineup of big games was red hot up and down the FOUR classifications around the WPIAL. Battles for first place here, showdowns between unbeaten teams there, big games, big games everywhere. Some of them lived up to their billing and thrilled the huge crowds on hands, some were closer early before the final results was no so tight, and others were just an old fashioned butt whipping. Whatever the case, big game or not, here are the players that stood out in various playoff like atmosphere’s in only Week Six.

Philip Jurkovec – Pine-Richland

The gifted Super Sophomore Philip Jurkovec is helping to erase the not so distant memories from opponents of what Ben DiNucci did to them just twelve months ago. Jurkovec continues to do damage to the opposition with bot his arms and his legs in leading Pine-Richland to six straight wins. Jurkovec hit on 20 of 33 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns, plus he carries the ball 18 times for 233 yards and another score as the Rams stayed alone in first place in the AAAA Northern Eight Conference with a 35-28 victory over the visiting Seneca Valley Raiders.

Thomas Vissman – Upper St. Clair

When Upper St. Clair is at its best, the great Coach Jim Render is calling the same number and quite possibly the same play over and over for big chunks of turf. Thomas Vissman carried the ball 27 times and gained 252 yards on the ground while scoring five touchdowns on runs of 40, 71, 22 and a pair of 1-yards runs as the Panthers snapped a rare three game losing streak with a 35-21 victory over the host Baldwin Highlanders to help solidify their playoff hopes in the Class AAAA Southeastern Conference.

Edgar Parilla – Mount Lebanon

Sometimes you earn your spot on the HighLights by putting up gaudy stats. Then again, sometimes all you need are one or two HUGE game changing plays for your MSA kudos. Such is the case for Edgar Parilla. With he and his Mount Lebanon teammates trailing late in the third quarter 20-7 and with Bethel Park driving, Parilla picked off a Levi Metheny pass at the two yard line and returned it 98-yards to the house, then later returned a punt 50-yards to set up the go-ahead fourth quarter score that helped the Blue Devils improve to 6-0 with a 31-20 come-from-behind thriller over the Black Hawks in a Class AAAA Southeastern Conference dandy.

Brett Laffoon – Penn-Trafford

What does it take to win in the districts highest classification (FOUR-A) when everybody is gunning for you? Sometimes to stay perfect, you have to be nearly perfect. Such was the case Friday night for Penn-Trafford quarterback Brett Laffoon as the classifications leading passes hit on 13 of 14 passes for 238 yards and three touchdowns passes of 44, 13 and 34 yards as the Warriors improved to 6-0 and all alone on top of the Class AAAA Foothills Conference with a 42-7 triumph over the visiting Hempfield Spartans.

Santino Birty – Franklin Regional

It might not have received the attention of the Class AAA Big Ten Conference showdown between Ringgold and Belle Vernon, but a little ‘birdy’ said this battle for first place in the ultra-competitive Class AAA Greater Allegheny Conference was just as big. Franklin Regional is now in first place and flying high thanks to the performance of quarterback Santino Birty, who hurt visiting Hampton as much with his legs as he did with his arm, rushing for 217 yards and two bookend scores on touchdown runs of 15 and 73 yards and the Panthers handed the Talbots their first loss to the tune of 21-2.

Conor Hinchey – Elizabeth Forward

While a lot of the Class AAA Big Ten Conference attention has gone to the great starts of Belle Vernon and Ringgold (and rightly so) along with what has happened to the conference juggernaut Thomas Jefferson, Elizabeth Forward has quietly improved to .500 and is in the chase for a playoff spot. It appears EF has hitched their wagons to Conor Hinchey, who on Friday rushed for 249 yards and two touchdowns on runs of 44 and 20 yards, the latter which proved to be the game winner in a 36-33 shootout win over the visiting Yough Cougars.

Tyler Balega – Derry

Just when you think the Class AA Interstate Conference is going to be an easy playoff picture to figure out down the ‘Stretch Run’ with Washington, Mount Pleasant and McGuffey grabbing the top three postseason spots and Southmoreland and Burgettstown battling for the final berth…here comes Derry. A predicted playoff berth for Derry at the start of the season by MSA Sports own Sean Meyers may come after Tyler Balega rushed for 192 yards and scored all three touchdowns on two runs and a scoring reception as the Trojans stunned the visiting McGuffey Highlanders 20-14.

Hunter Hayes – South Fayette

ALWAYS the hunted in the Class AA Century Conference every year this decade, somehow, someway South Fayette clear all hurdles and makes it look sooo easy. In what was supposed to be the latest ‘big test’ for Joe Rossi’s squad, SF hit the road running led by Hunter Hayes, who rushed for 160 yards and on a pair of touchdowns runs in the first half of 2 and 16 yards as the Lions cruised to a 37-0 whitewash of the host and previously unbeaten Steel Valley Ironmen in the 38th consecutive win for South Fayette, tying them with Greensburg for third longest in WPIAL history.

Aaron Matthews – Clairton

He has gone from quarterback to wide receiver back to quarterback in his high school career, but wherever Clairton coaches ask Aaron Matthews to play, he usually comes up large like he did in Friday’s showdown matchup of undefeated teams at McKee Stadium in Jeannette. Matthews connected on 14 of 19 passes for 299 yards and four touchdowns on passes of 74, 12, 12 and 34 yards, plus he ran for 89 yards and a score as the Bears remained perfect with a 56-29 victory over the host Jayhawks for first place in the Class A Eastern Conference.

Ethan Tush – Bentworth

A memorable season on the gridiron for Bentworth continued Friday as their star running back Ethan Tush spent the evening knocking California players on their fannies. (C’mon, admit it, you thought i was going to say tush). The senior running back rushed for 329 yards on 21 carries and scored SIX touchdowns on runs of 5, 49, 55, 73 and 52 yards, plus he returned an interception 46 yards for a score as the Bearcats moved into a tie for second place in the Class A Tri-County South Conference with a 49-27 win over the visiting Trojans. 

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