WPIAL’s top linemen named finalists for 4th annual Bill Fralic Memorial Award

Monday, November 14, 2022 | 1:37 PM

As expected, six finalists were announced for the fourth Bill Fralic Memorial Award, which honors the top senior football interior lineman in the WPIAL.

But more news came out of Monday morning’s press conference at The Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum at Heinz History Center. Mainly that the museum will now be the permanent home of the award named after Fralic, the late Penn Hills, Pitt and NFL great whose friends and associates continue to enhance his legacy through the award and their foundation.

“This city meant everything to Bill,” said Fralic’s wife, Susan. “I’m so humbled and honored by what (the foundation and museum) have done. Thank you, Pittsburgh.”

An exhibit will display Fralic memorabilia, and winners of the award will have their names put on view on a plaque for years to come. Fralic’s Penn Hills jersey, as well as helmets he wore at Pitt and with the Atlanta Falcons, were flanked on a table Monday by the Fralic trophy and a plaque with the names of past winners.

“We want to make sure everyone knows the man he was,” said Anne Madarasz, director of the museum. “We want to help represent the fullness of his career.”

The finalists, one in each classification, are: Kade Capristo of Mt. Lebanon in Class 6A, Joe Enick of Penn-Trafford (5A), Ty Banco of Trinity (4A), Steve Macheska of Belle Vernon (3A), Greg Smith of Steel Valley (2A) and Tyrese Washington-Law of Clairton (A).

The winner will be unveiled at a pancake breakfast Dec. 3 at Longue Vue Club in Verona.

“One thing that can’t be overlooked about (Fralic) is his compassion for the game and his teammates,” WPIAL executive director Scott Seltzer said. “You think about the categories; what kind of teammate are you? Do you always do the right thing? Fralic is that example. The WPIAL is honored to support this award.”

Former Fox Chapel and South Park coach Tom Loughran was an assistant at Penn Hills when Fralic played.

“Billy set the standard of what it meant to be a two-way lineman,” Loughran said.

Here’s a look at each of the finalists:

• Capristo, a 6-foot-3, 295-pound two-way lineman, was an all-state selection last season. He is a Richmond commit.

• Enick (6-3, 295) is a Central Michigan commit who played center and defensive tackle for Penn-Trafford. He played a key role in the Warriors’ run to WPIAL and PIAA championships last season.

• Banco (6-1, 275), a two-time all-conference player and two-way tackle, blocks and tackles with the best in 4A, but he’s not all football, all the time. That is because he is a three-sport athlete. He is a standout heavyweight wrestler.

• Macheska (6-4, 240) is a two-way lineman for Belle Vernon, the top seed in the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs. He blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone last week in a quarterfinal win over East Allegheny.

Steel Valley is the top seed in Class 2A, thanks to players likes Smith, a mammoth 6-foot-5, 320-pound tackle who has committed to Miami of Ohio.

Washington-Law (5-10, 245) played guard on offense and tackle and end on defense for perennial power Clairton.

Past winners are Logan Danielson of Thomas Jefferson (2019), Miguel Jackson of Pine-Richland (2020) and Sean FitzSimmons of Central Valley (2021).

Fralic, who died of cancer in 2018, was an All-American at Pitt. Often credited for popularizing the pancake block, he was the second pick in the 1985 NFL Draft and became All-Pro the next year.

After having NFL Hall of Famer and Pitt alum Jimbo Covert speak at last year’s banquet, former pro lineman Mike Kenn is scheduled to address the audience this year.

Kenn played his entire 14-year career — 251 games including a stretch of 94 straight starts — with the Atlanta Falcons (1978-94) and is part of the team’s Ring of Honor.

The 6-7 Kenn and Fralic were teammates.

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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