HS football position by position breakdown: Scouting the quarterbacks
The WPIAL had its first career 5,000-yard passer in 1993, when then-North Hills senior Eric Kasperowicz reached the lofty number.
Now, the list is almost two dozen names long.
As Pine-Richland's coach, Kasperowicz can see one of his quarterbacks join the club for the second time in four years. Rams senior Phil Jurkovec, who passed for 2,560 yards as a sophomore, is within 800 despite an injury-shortened junior season. Former Pine-Richland star Ben DiNucci, now a sophomore at Pitt, finished with 7,619 yards in 2014.
The WPIAL's 5,000-yard club should continue to add members quickly as teams throw the football more than ever.
If Central Catholic senior Troy Fisher matches last year's 1,800-yard season, he too would reach 5,000.
South Fayette's Drew Saxton, another third-year starter, enters his senior season with 4,703 career yards. With a year like last, Saxton could join DiNucci as a 7,000-yard passer, but his own school's record is out of reach. South Fayette alum Brett Brumbaugh set the state record with 11,084 in 2014.
The career numbers are trending up because single-season totals are on the rise. The WPIAL had 10 QBs throw for at least 2,000 yards last season.
Among them, returnees Saxton, Hempfield's Justin Sliwoski and Gateway's Brady Walker earned all-conference. Central Valley's Nico Battisti also was a first-team pick.
1. Phil Jurkovec
Pine-Richland Senior, 6-5, 220
A thumb injury limited the Notre Dame commit to six games last season, but he still threw for 1,673 yards and 12 touchdowns. He completed 62 percent of his 167 attempts (2 INTs), and rushed for eight more scores. As a junior, he was a 2,500-yard passer and 1,200-yard rusher.
2. Troy Fisher
Senior, 6-4, 200
The Lafayette commit threw 22 touchdowns last season when Central Catholic won the WPIAL's first's Class 6A title and finished as the state runner-up. He passed for 1,815 yards, and also rushed for 571 yards 12 TDs. He completed 58 percent of his 140 throws with five INTs.
3. Justin Sliwoski
Hempfield Senior, 6-2, 195
Sliwoski broke the 2,000-yard mark as a first-year starter last season. He completed 57 percent of his 270 passes for 2,007 yards and 18 touchdowns (12 INTs) for a WPIAL Class 6A playoff team. He lists Division 1 FCS offers from Dayton, Georgetown, Colgate and Columbia. He rushed for eight scores last year.
4. Brady Walker
Senior, 6-3, 180
Walker led Gateway to the WPIAL Class 5A semifinals with 28 TDs and 2,820 passing yards, which ranks first among returning WPIAL quarterbacks. He completed 61 percent of his 282 throws with eight INTs. He threw four TDs and rushed for another against McKeesport in the WPIAL playoffs.
5. Drew Saxton
Senior, 6-1, 195
Saxton threw 30 touchdowns last season, which ranks first among returning WPIAL quarterbacks. His 2,638 yards ranks second only to Walker.
He completed 64 percent of his 233 passes with 11 interceptions as South Fayette reached the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs.
One to watch: Hollis Mathis
Junior, 6-2, 170
The first-year starter, who already lists a Division 1 FCS offer, takes over at quarterback for 2,300-yard passer Cam Tarrant. Among his wideouts will be Michigan State recruit Julian Major. As the Indians' backup, Mathis passed for 164 yards and one touchdown last season. In May, he announced a college offer from Howard.