Westmoreland County High School Football WPIAL Semifinal Preview

Penn Trafford faces Pine Richland in Class 5A while Belle Vernon meets Thomas Jefferson in 4A semis

Fri Nov 19, 2021 - 12:22AM

Sean Meyers Sean Meyers
Penn-Trafford's Cade Yacamelli and Belle Vernon's Devin Whitlock lead their respective teams into WPIAL semifinal battles tonight.Penn-Trafford's Cade Yacamelli and Belle Vernon's Devin Whitlock lead their respective teams into WPIAL semifinal battles tonight.

Last Updated: Fri Nov 19, 2021 - 2:16AM

With the exception of Class 6A, the rest of the WPIAL football postseason has reached the semifinals stage. Two Westmoreland County teams remain, with #2 seed Penn-Trafford in 5A and top-seeded Belle Vernon Area in Class 4A. Both teams face reigning champions this week, with a trip to Heinz Field on the line. Here’s a closer look at the marquee matchups.

WPIAL Class 5A Semifinals: #3 Pine-Richland (7-4) vs #2 Penn-Trafford (9-2) – 7 p.m. at Gateway High School

Pregame at 6 p.m. on WSN Video - WATCH LIVE

WSN Broadcasters: John Flickinger, Sean Benjamin, and Hannah Mears

About the Rams: Pine-Richland notched a 20-14 comeback victory against Peters Township last week in the Class 5A quarterfinals. Quarterback Ryan Palmieri accounted for the winning score on a 7-yard run in the fourth quarter, while he also produced a pair of touchdown passes to Alex Gochis. As a passer, Palmieri connected on 13-of-20 passes for 168 yards, while he added 78 yards rushing on 23 carries. Gochis, meanwhile, snagged seven passes for 84 yards. Since replacing injured starting QB Cole Boyd, who had eclipsed 1,100 yards passing through the first seven games of the season, Palmieri has amassed 741 yards passing on 44-of-77 attempts, with six touchdowns and just one interception. Brooks Eastburn paces the Rams’ rushing attack, with 128 attempts for 732 yards, while Gochis is the top pass catcher, with 38 receptions for 648 yards and a team-leading seven touchdowns. Jeremy Hasley, who has 19 catches for 242 yards, is also a top linebacker who is committed to Duke. Winners of seven of their past eight contests, the Rams have averaged 25.8 points per game, while permitting 17.7. Steve Campos is the first-year head coach for PR.

About the Warriors: Penn-Trafford claimed a mercy-rule victory, 42-14, against Fox Chapel Area last week in the 5A quarterfinals. The Warriors held a 35-0 lead at halftime, courtesy of two rushing scores by running back Cade Yacamelli, a pair of rushing TDs from quarterback Carter Green, and a touchdown pass from Green to Yacamelli. Yacamelli, a Wisconsin commit, registered 10 carries for 140 yards, while Green rushed nine times for 101 yards and threw for 56 yards. Tight end Conlan Greene, who shifted to QB in the second half, provided a rushing TD, while Tommy Kalkstein was the top receiver, with two grabs for 33 yards. For the season, Yacamelli has registered 1,290 yards rushing, 165 yards receiving, and 19 total touchdowns. Green, meanwhile, has produced 983 yards passing and nine TDs, along with 916 yards rushing and 14 scores. Kalkstein has contributed a team-best 249 yards receiving, while Liam Hileman paces the Warriors with 13 receptions. Kicker Nate Schlessinger has notched 67 points, including six field goals. Winners of seven in a row, the Warriors have outscored their foes on average by a margin of 34.1-12.7 this season.

About the Matchup: The winner advances to the WPIAL 5A Championship against either #1 Moon Area or #5 Penn Hills. The title game will be played at Heinz Field on Saturday Nov. 27 at 6 p.m. A year ago, Pine-Richland smashed Penn-Trafford 49-14 in the semifinals, en route to the district gold. The teams also met in the WPIAL semifinals in 2015, when the Warriors claimed a 38-34 victory to advance to the Class Quad-A Championship game.

WPIAL Class 4A Semifinals: #5 Thomas Jefferson (8-2) vs #1 Belle Vernon Area (9-0) – 7 p.m. at West Mifflin High School

About the Jaguars: Thomas Jefferson cruised to a 42-14 victory at Hampton last week in the Class 4A quarterfinals. Quarterback Joe Lekse was dynamic on the ground, as he rushed 22 times for 114 yards and five scores, despite not completing a pass. Elias Lippincott also surpassed the century mark, as he compiled 101 yards rushing and a score on 17 attempts. TJ scored the first 28 points of the contest, and also intercepted the Talbots twice. For the 2021 campaign, Lekse has passed for 878 yards and 12 touchdowns, and has amassed 626 yards rushing and 19 scores. Lippencott, meanwhile, leads TJ with 854 yards rushing, and also has scored 13 times. Sean Sullivan is the top receiver, with 27 receptions for 513 yards. TJ, which has posted three shutouts this season, allows 11.6 points per game, while scoring 36.2. Legendary coach Bill Cherpak guides the Jaguars.

About the Leopards: Belle Vernon Area bested New Castle 45-20 in the quarterfinals last week. Quarterback Devin Whitlock scored on two short rushes, found paydirt on a 75-yard scamper, and also threw for a touchdown. Quinton Martin, meanwhile, added a pair of rushing scores. Martin finished with 126 yards on the ground, while Whitlock notched 6-of-8 passing for 145 yards, and contributed 77 yards on the ground. Tight end and leading tackler Cole Weightman played limited snaps due to injury. For the season, Whitlock has completed 55-of-80 passes for 828 yards, eight touchdowns, and two interceptions, while he’s rushed 80 times for 960 yards, and has scored 23 times. Martin, meanwhile, has produced 737 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns. The Leopards average 42.7 points per game, while allowing 11.9 points.

About the Matchup: The winner advances to the WPIAL Class 4A Championship, against either #2 Aliquippa or #3 McKeesport Area. That title game is slated for 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 27 at Heinz Field. As Big Eight conference foes, the Leps and Jags met earlier this season, a thrilling 28-21 win for BVA. The last playoff meeting between the teams took place in the WPIAL 4A Championship in 2019, a 41-7 victory for Thomas Jefferson.