Here’s a look at 5 top high school football teams in Westmoreland history |

Here’s a look at 5 top high school football teams in Westmoreland history

Tribune-Review archive
Latrobe’s Jim Siko attempts an extra point in front of the iconic scoreboard at Forbes Field on Nov. 16, 1968. The Wildcats defeated Kiski Area, 19-7, for the WPIAL Class AAA football title.

Westmoreland County has been blessed with many outstanding high school football teams since the sport was introduced in the 1890s.

Here’s a top 5:

1927 Mt. Pleasant Hurst Hurricanes

One of the most dominant teams in WPIAL history, the Hurricanes outscored the opposition 615-0. But it wasn’t enough to win a WPIAL title. Before the season, it was decided that there would not be any playoff games. Instead, the WPIAL title was awarded by the opinion of Syracuse University Alumni Association of Western Pennsylvania. The winner would earn the Syracuse Cup. Hurst could only seethe as neighboring Greensburg was given the WPIAL title.

The outcry was so loud that the WPIAL started a second enrollment classification for smaller schools like Hurst. One of the key players for the Hurricanes that season was John Murtha. His son, also named John Murtha, would become a 36-year U.S. congressman.

1968 Latrobe Wildcats

The Wildcats and Kiski Area both finished undefeated in Foothills Conference play and met in the WPIAL final at Forbes Field. Two days of torrential rains brought on soggy conditions in the outfield, where the grid was laid out.

What made matters worse was that a freshman game between Pitt and Ohio State was played earlier that day.

In a game televised live on WQED Channel 13, quarterback Jim Siko threw a touchdown pass to Jim Kralik a little more than three minutes into the game. On the next possession, Art Cologrande scored on a 57-yard run and Latrobe was in control. Siko put the icing on the cake with a 1-yard sneak late in the game.

Wildcats 13-year coach Chuck Findley announced his retirement after the game to go into school administration.

A crowd of 7,701 watched what turned out to be the last WPIAL title game at Forbes Field and a victory to savor for the Wildcats. The school had never won a WPIAL playoff game before and hasn’t since.

1971 Kiski Area Cavaliers

With just two returning starters from the previous season’s Class AAA runner-up, not much was expected from the Cavaliers.

Instead, Kiski Area rolled through the regular season, scoring an average of 38.3 per game over the first six games, setting up a showdown with similarly undefeated Hempfield. Before a crowd of 9,500 at Davis Field — widely believed to be the largest crowd ever at that facility — the Cavaliers slipped by the Spartans, 13-8.

The WPIAL changed its playoff format, allowing all undefeated and untied teams to engage in a playoff. Kiski Area and Penn Hills were tied, 6-6, late in the game. At that time, if a game ended in a tie, the team with the most yardage wouId advance, But Joe Stone booted a 25-yard field goal with 37 seconds left to give the Cavaliers the win. A 16-8 victory over Thomas Jefferson gave the Cavaliers (12-0) the WPIAL title. With no PIAA playoffs, the team was rated tops in the state by the Saylor Rankings. The St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press had a national ranking of No. 5 for Kiski Area. At No. 3 was T.C. Williams of Alexandria, Va., the team immortalized in the movie “Remember the Titans.”

2005 Franklin Regional Panthers

Defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Thomas Jefferson was a heavy favorite in the Class AAA title game at Heinz Field.

Things looked bleak when Franklin Regional quarterback Brad Phillips was hurt in the second quarter. But senior running back Robby Armstrong picked up the slack and ran for 143 yards, often behind John Malecki, who dominated from the right tackle position.

The Panthers rolled to a 31-14 win against Thomas Jefferson.

In the PIAA title game, with Phillips still hurt, Armstrong suffered a knee injury against Pottsville.

Reserve quarterback Lenny Gallo continued his sparkling play, and Lee Howatneck ran for 99 yards after Armstrong left the game.

Franklin Regional rolled to a 20-0 halftime lead as the Panthers defense held Pottsville to 35 total yards.

The Franklin Regional defense continued to put up a brick wall and the Panthers secured a 23-13 victory.

2007 Jeannette Jayhawks

In one of the most exciting games in WPIAL history, the Jayhawks defeated Aliquippa, 70-48, in a WPIAL Class 2A semifinal game at Highlands High School. Terrelle Pryor had a hand in seven touchdowns and forced two fumbles.

How monumental was the win? Aliquippa has made the WPIAL championship game every year since.

A week later, Jeannette won the WPIAL title at Heinz Field, 61-12, over Beaver Falls.

The Jayhawks, however, didn’t stop there. In its lowest output of the season, Jeannette beat Karns City, 35-6, to open the PIAA tournament and followed that with a 41-21 victory over Wilmington in the state semifinal game.

Jeannette capped an incredible 16-0 season with a 49-21 win over Dunmore to bring home the state title.

The Jayhawks scored a state-record 860 points and averaged 53.8 points per game.

Pryor became the first player in state history to pass for more than 4,000 yards (4,340) and rush for more than 4,000 yards (4,238).

Honorable mention: 1914 Greensburg (outscored opponents 438-0); 1956 Jeannette.

George Guido is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

Categories: Local | Westmoreland
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