Pine-Richland trounces Norwin in 1st round
Last season, Pine-Richland quarterback Phil Jurkovec missed the postseason with a thumb injury and Kenny White played for West Allegheny.
Both of them were on the field for the Rams when the Class 6A playoffs began Friday, and the duo's big-play ability gave Norwin fits.
Jurkovec threw four touchdown passes and rushed for another, and White had a rushing score and a 75-yard kick return for another touchdown to help top-seeded Pine-Richland roll to a 49-14 victory over No. 8 Norwin.
The Rams (11-0) advanced to play No. 5 North Allegheny next Friday in the semifinals.
Jurkovec, a Notre Dame recruit, threw for touchdowns of 17, 52, 30 and 19 yards and rushed for an 85-yard score. He exited late in the third quarter after throwing a touchdown pass to Jordan Crawford and finished with 232 passing yards and 113 rushing yards.
On White's kick return, he cut across the field from left to right before turning it up the sideline going untouched into the end zone.
“They're a solid team, and they're ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL for a reason,” Norwin coach Dave Brozeski said. “Hats off to coach (Eric) Kasperowicz and all the guys on their team. I hope they can keep it going.”
Norwin quarterback Jake Salopek was intercepted three times in the first half, twice by Jason DeFrancis. Salopek finished with 153 yards passing and scored on a 1-yard run late in the second quarter. Salopek, a sophomore, didn't play in the second half. Senior Brock Dieter took over at quarterback and led a fourth-quarter drive that ended on a Jayvon Thrift 4-yard touchdown run.
Jurkovec led the Rams down the field on the opening drive and found Ben Jochen with a 17-yard touchdown pass. On the next drive, he found Cameron Ballay on a screen pass and Ballay slipped through the defense for a 52-yard score to make it 14-0.
Norwin (5-6) forced a Jordan Crawford fumble on the goal line on Pine-Richland's third possession, and Ezekiel Houser recovered it at the Norwin 1-yard line. Any momentum gained quickly was swept away, however, when Salopek had a pass deflected three plays later, and it was intercepted by Jared Marfisi at the 5. White scored on the next play.
Jurkovec hit Dawson Goltz, who fought off several tackles and plunged into the end zone for a 30-yard score early in the second to make the score 28-0.
“It was great to see Phil come out and play tonight,” Kasperowicz said. “It's his senior year. Norwin came out and battled. They played hard. I'm proud of my coaching staff for getting our guys prepared to play tonight.
“Kenny's playing well right now. Everyone's playing well right now, but as I always say, we have to take it one game at a time.”
Pine-Richland's Thomas Burns, the brother of Steelers cornerback Artie Burns, was injured on a kickoff in the second quarter. He needed assistance off the field and was favoring his right leg. He did not return.
“Thomas banged his knee up,” Kasperowicz said. “We're hoping he's going to be OK. We'll find out.”
Norwin qualified for the postseason for the fourth consecutive season but also suffered its fourth consecutive first-round exit. It graduates 15 seniors.
“Our guys kept battling all the way through, and I'm proud of the way the seniors ended their careers,” Brozeski said. “For a lot of these guys, it will be the last time they play football, and it will be the last time they play together as Norwin Knights.”
Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.