North Hills football great Kasperowicz part of WPIAL's 2014 hall class
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Eric Kasperowicz remembers every detail. The down, the distance — even the wind-chill (30-below) at Mansion Park Stadium in Altoona.
“That's in my head like it's yesterday,” he said.
He's talking about the 1993 PIAA Class AAAA championship, the game that punctuated Kasperowicz's four-year career as a quarterback at North Hills and helped him gain membership into the WPIAL's Hall of Fame. The league introduced 17 members for the Class of 2014 Wednesday.
With 25 seconds left in the game against Central Bucks West, North Hills was losing 14-7 and facing a fourth-and-goal from the 28. When Kasperowicz threw a touchdown pass to Chris Feola, who later became his roommate at Pitt, it set up the final dramatic moments.
North Hills lined up for the extra-point kick that would have sent the game into overtime, but coach Jack McCurry called timeout.
“He asked me what I thought, and I said, ‘Let's go for the win,' ” said Kasperowicz, now the head coach at Pine-Richland.
McCurry agreed, although seven years earlier he took the same gamble in the WPIAL championship against Gateway and lost 7-6.
“That's, obviously, been his M.O.,” Kasperowicz said.
The call was a pass, but Kasperowicz drew the defense offsides with a hard count. The ball was moved to the 11⁄2 and the play was changed to an option.
“I walked in,” he said.
Among the other inductees, who will be honored at a banquet June 6 at the Green Tree Doubletree Hotel, are: • Basketball player Shannon Davis, who was named a Parade All-American three times and led Sacred Heart to a state title in 1989, the year the school closed. Davis, a Pittsburgh police officer, said, “It was going to be kind of sad, but we just knew we wanted to do something special. God blessed us and we were able to do it.”
• Former Connellsville baseball coach Tom Sankovich, who started the program in 1971 and won the first of four WPIAL titles two years later. Sankovich retired in 1990 after winning 422 games, and is grateful his teams haven't been forgotten. “Sometimes, I forget what I have in my refrigerator,” he said.
• Members of the undefeated 1960 Beaver Falls football team that was led by Joe Namath and outscored nine opponents 305-63.
• Blackhawk basketball player Dante Calabria, who scored 2,252 career points before graduating in 1992.
• Avella's Ralph Cindrich, a WPIAL champion wrestler in 1967, two-sport All-American at Pitt and NFL linebacker. Cindrich is one of the nation's leading sports attorneys.
• Moon's Kelly Deep Panucci, a 1987 graduate who was part of doubles teams that won four WPIAL and PIAA championships.
• Upper St. Clair's Beth Friday, who had 17 shutouts as a soccer goalkeeper and a 21-point scoring average in basketball in 1998-99.
• Fort Cherry running back Mike Vernillo, who graduated in 2000 as the WPIAL's all-time leading rusher with 7,646 yards.
• Bob Jacoby, who worked a total of 70 seasons at Bishop Canevin as football (40) and softball (30) coach.
• Former Springdale soccer coach Dave Meloni, who led his team on a 72-game winning streak from 1968-72.
• Don Yannessa, who coached a total of 37 seasons and won 249 football games at Aliquippa, Baldwin and Ambridge from 1972-2008.
• The 1989 Baldwin girls volleyball team whose first unit had a record of 118-2 while winning a state title.
• Wrestling official Larry Maggi, who has worked matches since 1971.
• Contributor Jon Vallina, who was a member of the WPIAL Board of Control for 12 years and was chairman of the golf steering committee.
• Donora's Arnold Galiffa, who won 12 varsity letters in football, basketball, baseball and track before graduating in 1945, will be given the Heritage Award.
• Retired Shaler High School principal Bill Suit, who died in December after a six-year battle with sarcoma cancer, is this year's Courage Award winner.
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
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