No. 1 Pine-Richland shows off running game in victory over North Allegheny
Pine-Richland's coaches decided to protect Phil Jurkovec from wear and tear, so they've limited the quarterback's carries to nights when they absolutely needed him to run.
This was one of those nights.
With Jurkovec heavily involved in the read-option, the Rams rushed for 629 yards and seven touchdowns in Friday night's 48-28 victory over rival North Allegheny. Jordan Crawford ran for 242 yards, Kenny White had 209 and Jurkovec added 178 as No. 1-ranked Pine-Richland (10-0, 6-0) stayed on the ground to win the Northern Seven title outright.
“If a team is going to force us to run the ball, then I had to run,” said Jurkovec, who passed for just 52 yards but carried a team-high 17 times and scored touchdowns on runs of 69 and 10 yards.
White scored three times with an 81-yarder included. Crawford scored twice with his longest a 95-yarder.
“It's hard for the defense because they have to key on Phil and me and Jordan,” White said, “so it's hard for teams to scheme for us.”
Only once this season had Jurkovec reached double-digit carries, a 10-run night against Central Catholic. After Friday's win, he and some teammates symbolically planted Pine-Richland's flag at midfield.
“We've had him parked awhile,” Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz said. “He hasn't run the ball much. We'll run him when we need to run him.”
The Rams needed Jurkovec because No. 4-ranked North Allegheny (7-3, 4-2) played them tough. Pine-Richland led 14-0 early, but NA closed the gap to 21-14, 28-21 and finally 35-28 with 10:06 left in the fourth quarter. Pine-Richland, which hadn't seen a second-half challenge since early in the season, pulled away late with touchdowns by White and Crawford in the final 7 minutes.
“I hope people remember that when it's time to seed things and set brackets up,” said NA coach Art Walker, whose Tigers finished third in the conference. “That should mean a lot. I hope it does. Our kids battled and proved they could play with them. … For the first time in a long time, the (Pine-Richland) guys are going to wake up and know they played a game.”
NA quarterback Luke Trueman rushed for a touchdown and passed for another, and running back Turner White rushed for 104 yards and threw a touchdown. The Tigers were creative in the second half with a successful fake punt and White's halfback pass.
But NA's defense couldn't solve the option run.
With Jurkovec unleashed, the Rams showed a ground game to match their big-play air attack. White, who scored three times on 12 carries, had touchdown runs of 56, 81 and 4 yards. Crawford, who carried 13 times, scored on runs of 95 and 46 yards.
“The (defense) can't attack it downhill because you don't know where the ball is going,” Jurkovec said. “It could go one backside gap or the front side on a sweep, so you just don't know.”
Jurkovec completed just 6 of 14 throws. He attempted just five in the second half.
“It was dictated on what (North Allegheny) wanted to do, what they wanted to take away,” Kasperowicz said. “They came out in a three-man front most of the night and had a five-man box. We're probably going to run the ball most of the time until they want to load it up.”