Westmoreland County High School Football Week Four Preview

Penn-Trafford welcomes Hempfield; Belle Vernon meets Thomas Jefferson; Norwin heads to Woodland Hills

Fri Sep 22, 2023 - 12:31AM

Sean Meyers Sean Meyers

Last Updated: Fri Sep 22, 2023 - 4:28PM

At the conclusion of this weekend’s slate of action, the vast majority of football teams will be exactly halfway through their regular-season schedule. While several teams have yet to begin conference action, a few other squads in Westmoreland County will commence conference play. Moreover, there are several notable nonconference tilts, including a marque showdown between a pair of title contenders. Here’s a deep dive into each Westmoreland County game in Week Four of the season.

Hempfield Area (1-3, 0-0) at Penn-Trafford (1-3, 0-0) – 7:30 p.m.

Pregame at 7 p.m. on WSN VIDEO - WATCH LIVE

WSN Broadcasters: Sean Meyers and Roger Downs

About the Spartans: Hempfield Area struggled to slow down the prolific offense of the Titans, as Shaler Area ousted the homestanding Spartans 33-17 in a Class 5A nonconference game last week. For the Spartans, Rogan Katchur rushed 14 times for 118 yards and a touchdown. Additionally, Keiran Lippmann hit on 10-of-16 passes for 63 yards and added a rushing score. The loss marked the third in a row for Hempfield Area, which has been outscored 88-31 during that stretch. For the campaign, Lippmann has hit on 44-of-74 passes for 422 yards, while Katchur has compiled 219 yards rushing and a team-best four TDs. Five different players have at least six receptions, with Mitchell Bitar leading the way with nine grabs.

About the Warriors: Penn-Trafford was stifled at home once again last week, sustaining its second shutout loss of the season in a 21-0 defeat against Belle Vernon Area. Tasso Whipple rushed 13 times for 51 yards for PT. QB Jonny Lovre was just 6-of-20 for 60 yards and an interception, while Ben Grabowski also threw a pick. Carmen Metcalfe had three receptions for 29 yards. On the campaign, Whipple has amassed 60 rushes for 309 yards and a team-best three total touchdowns, while also pacing the PT defense with 31 tackles. Metcalfe, meanwhile, has posted 21 receptions for 263 yards and two scores, and has snagged an interception defensively.

About the Matchup: This marks the Class 5A Big East Conference opener for both squads. Last year, Hempfield Area claimed a 28-17 home win.

Thomas Jefferson (4-0, 1-0) at Belle Vernon Area (3-0, 0-0) – 7 p.m.

Pregame at 6:30 p.m. on WSN AUDIO - LISTEN LIVE

WSN Broadcasters: Dave Franczak and Brian Brozeski

About the Jaguars: Thomas Jefferson claimed a 41-14 win at Greater Latrobe in the Class 4A Big Seven Conference opener a week ago. The Jaguars received strong showings from both QBs, as Brody Evans threw for 135 yards and a score, while Luke Kosko was an efficient 4-of-6 for 87 yards. Thomas Jefferson also had a dynamic duo on the ground, as Michael Banda had 94 yards and two touchdowns rushing, while Elias Lippencott added 70 yards and a score. On the campaign, receiver Sean Sullivan has been prolific, as he has 25 receptions for 504 yards, which ranks second in the entire WPIAL. Lippencott paces TJ with eight touchdowns, while Banda has registered a team-leading 318 yards rushing. Thomas Jefferson is under the guidance of legendary coach Bill Cherpak.

About the Leopards: Belle Vernon Area’s defense posted a shutout last week at Penn-Trafford, but the Leopards also scored a touchdown on a pick-six in a 21-0 victory in a Westmoreland County nonconference showdown. Jake Gedekoh had the 28-yard interception return score in the third quarter, while Quinton Martin compiled 104 yards and a score on 17 carries to pace the BVA offense. QB Braden Laux opened the scoring with a 1-yard run on fourth down in the first quarter. On the season, Martin has rushed for 222 yards on 28 carries, caught 10 passes for 67 yards, and has compiled a team-best five touchdowns. Through three games, BVA is allowing just 4.7 points per game, notching a pair of shutouts.

About the Matchup: The former conference foes will battle in a nonconference affair, as TJ resides in the Class 4A Big Seven Conference, while BVA is in the 3A Interstate. A year ago, the Leopards claimed a 21-7 victory.

Derry Area (2-2, 1-0) at Apollo-Ridge (1-3, 0-1) – 7 p.m.

Pregame at 6:30 p.m. on WSN VIDEO - WATCH LIVE

WSN Broadcasters: John Flickinger and Bob Lasinski

About the Trojans: Derry Area won a thriller last week, as Mason Beeman had a touchdown run in the fourth quarter, and his subsequent two-point conversion pass to Demauri Robinson accounted for the difference in the Trojans 22-21 home win against Yough in the Class 2A Allegheny Conference opener. Ahmad Ward had a 78-yard kickoff return TD to open the game for DA, and he added 21 carries for 86 yards and a touchdown on the ground, along with a pair of catches for 16 yards. For the campaign, Ward has accumulated 478 yards rushing and eight total scores. Beeman, meanwhile, has hit on 22-of-51 passes for 332 yards, but just one touchdown compared to six interceptions. The Trojans’ past three contests have been decided by a total of nine points.

About the Vikings: Apollo-Ridge dropped a 34-14 home contest to Ligonier Valley a week ago in the Class 2A Allegheny Conference lid-lifter. Apollo-Ridge quarterback Karter Schrock rushed for 156 yards in the setback. On the season, Schrock has paced the team by a wide margin with 86 carries for 445 yards and five touchdowns, while he’s also thrown for 158 yards and a score, but with four interceptions. Nobody else on AR has produced more than one touchdown. The Vikings have been outscored 117-60 this campaign. Coach John Skiba is at the helm of Apollo-Ridge.

About the Matchup: In 2022, the Vikings cruised to a 49-14 victory. Apollo-Ridge plays its home games at Owens Field.

Charleroi (0-3, 0-1) at Jeannette (3-1, 1-0) – 7 p.m.

Pregame at 6:30 p.m. on WSN VIDEO - WATCH LIVE

WSN Broadcasters: Brent Whigham and Anthony DeNunzio

About the Cougars: Charleroi dropped its third-straight game last week, falling 24-8 at Sto-Rox in conference play. Through three games, the Cougars have been outpaced 91-22. Tyler O’Neil and Noah Pletcher have found paydirt this season for Charleroi. Tyler Aeschbacher is in his first season as the Charleroi head coach.

About the Jayhawks: Jeannette was dominant in a 54-0 whitewash of Frazier a week ago in Class 1A Eastern Conference play. The visiting Jayhawks were led by QB Payton Molter, who completed all eight of his passing attempts for 153 yards and three touchdowns, while adding a defensive score. Jeannette scored two touchdowns in each quarter, including two apiece by Kymon’e Brown and Jeremiah Williamson. Williamson caught four passes for 102 yards, while Brown had three receptions for 33 yards and also snagged a 94-yard interception return. Michael Mason, Noah Sanders, and Nick Mendoza all added rushing scores for Jeannette. For the season, Sanders has rushed 48 times for 394 yards, caught nine passes for 88 yards, and scored seven total touchdowns. Molter, meanwhile, has thrown for 412 yards and four scores, while adding 194 yards on the ground and four total TDs. Jeannette is averaging nearly 33 points per game, the second-best mark in the conference.

About the Matchup: The nonconference clash pits the Cougars from the Class 2A Century Conference against the Jayhawks, who play in the Class 1A Eastern Conference. In 2022, Charleroi prevailed 24-20.

Shaler Area (4-0, 0-0) at Franklin Regional (2-2, 0-1) - 7 p.m.

Pregame at 6:30 p.m. on WSN AUDIO - LISTEN LIVE

WSN Broadcaster: Jonathan Whaley

About the Titans: Shaler Area stayed perfect last week with a 33-17 win at Hempfield Area. Titans QB Keegan Smetanka went 19-of-27 for 284 yards and three TDs in the triumph. His favorite target was Joey DeSabato, who had seven receptions for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Nathan Rozzo also had an impressive showing in leading the rushing attack, as he boasted 19 carries for 105 yards. For the campaign, Smetanka has completed 70-of-94 passes for 1,007 yards, which ranks second in the WPIAL, along with eight touchdowns and one interception, and he’s added five TDs as a rusher. DeSabato has snagged 28 receptions for 432 yards and five touchdowns, while Rozzo has amassed 411 yards on the ground. The Titans have outscored their foes by an average of 35.5-11.5. Jim Ryan oversees the Shaler Area program.

About the Panthers: Although Franklin Regional had the better of the play in the first half, a second-half surge carried host Gateway to a 44-24 win against the Panthers in Class 5A Big East Conference play a week ago. Kyle Dupill had a strong effort for the Panthers, as he rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns. Moreover, Chase Lemke hooked up with Ayden Hudock for a 57-yard TD connection on the initial FR drive of the contest. Through four games, Dupill has compiled 64 rushes for 403 yards, scoring six touchdowns. Additionally, Hudock has 11 receptions for 210 yards. FR has been outscored 107-97 through the first four contests.

About the Matchup: Although both teams compete in Class 5A, the game is a nonconference matchup, as Shaler Area is in the Northeast Conference, while Franklin Regional competes in the Big East. In 2022, the Titans notched a 42-41 overtime victory.

Greater Latrobe (2-2, 0-1) at Laurel Highlands (1-3, 0-1) – 7 p.m.

About the Wildcats: Greater Latrobe fell 41-14 at home to Thomas Jefferson in the Class 4A Big Seven Conference opener last week. John Wetzel produced a 95-yard interception return for the Wildcats, and Alex Tatsch found the end zone on a 9-yard run in the first half. Tatsch, who received an offer from West Virginia University over the weekend, was held out in the second half for precautionary reasons. Before his exit, Tatsch rushed eight times for 39 yards, caught two passes for 17 yards, and notched 10 tackles. For the season, Wetzel has thrown for 412 yards and five touchdowns, while rushing 43 times for a team-leading 209 yards, compiling three total TDs. Ja’Tawn Williams paces GL with eight catches for 219 yards.

About the Mustangs: Laurel Highlands was overmatched last week in a 55-3 loss at McKeesport Area. Tanner Bruzda’s 36-yard field goal accounted for the only points. Antwan Black, a junior receiver and defensive back who has received numerous Power Five offers, did not play after suffering a serious injury against Kiski Area. He leads Laurel Highlands with 11 receptions for 93 yards and four touchdowns. Parker Hoff paces the rushing attack, as he’s compiled 33 attempts for 160 yards, while Noah Lion and Johnny Duke have split time behind center. The Mustangs have been outscored 136-77 on the season. Rich Kolesar is the head coach for Laurel Highlands.

About the Matchup: After both teams qualified for the playoffs last year, they are in pursuit of their first win in the Class 4A Big Seven Conference in 2023. Last season, the Mustangs notched a narrow 10-7 win.

North Catholic (2,2 1-0) at Kiski Area (1-3, 0-1) – 7 p.m.

About the Trojans: North Catholic posted a shutout victory, 19-0, at home against Highlands in its conference lid-lifter last week. Quarterback Jason Siket completed 7-of-16 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns, while Brady O’Hara caught four passes for 83 yards and a score. On the ground, Jack Fennell contributed 17 carries for 134 yards and a touchdown. On the season, Fennell has amassed 64 carries for 451 yards and a team-best six TDs. O’Hara, who has a bevy of Division I offers, has caught 11 passes for 232 yards. Chris Rizzo is in his first season at the helm of North Catholic.

About the Cavaliers: Despite a strong performance by the duo of Carson Heinle and Andrew Finney, Kiski Area dropped its Class 4A Greater Allegheny Conference opener at Hampton 35-26 last week. Heinle amassed 173 yards passing and three scores, while Finney hauled in seven passes for 162 yards and a trio of touchdowns. Landon Kucic added an 11-yard rushing score for KA. For the season, Heinle has hit on 36-of-66 passes for 475 yards and seven touchdowns. Finney has produced 13 catches for 193 yards and a team-best four TDs. The Cavaliers are averaging 18 points per contest, the lowest mark in the conference.

About the Matchup: The contest represents the second game for each team in Class 4A Greater Allegheny Conference play. In 2022, North Catholic prevailed 33-21.

Burrell (2-2, 1-0) at Yough (1-3, 0-1) – 7 p.m.

About the Buccaneers: A touchdown by Tyler Maglisco and a two-point conversion carried Burrell to an 8-7 win at home against Serra Catholic in a Class 2A Allegheny Conference battle last week. Maglisco found paydirt on a 5-yard run, and Stevie Hasson connected with Devin Beattie on the conversion for the Buccaneers. Beattie finished with 29 carries for 101 yards, while Hasson completed three passes for 38 yards, the first completions of the season for the Bucs. The Bucs defense also was instrumental, denying the Eagles with a pair of goal-line stands. For the season, Beattie has registered 106 carries for 436 yards. The Bucs have permitted just 15 points total over the past two contests.

About the Cougars: Yough took a heartbreaking 22-21 loss to Derry Area last week in the Class 2A Allegheny Conference opener. Raidon Kuroda posted a pair of touchdown runs and a TD pass to Mikey Nogy for the Cougars. Shane Swope and Antonio Marra contributed 63 and 61 yards rushing, respectively. On the campaign, Kuroda has passed for 403 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for 296 yards, scoring six times. All four of the Cougars’ contests have been decided by 14 points or fewer.

About the Matchup: The clash represents the second game in Class 2A Allegheny Conference play for each squad. In 2022, Burrell won convincingly, 42-6.

Ligonier Valley (2-2, 1-0) at Steel Valley (2-1, 1-0) – 7 p.m.

About the Rams: John Jablunovsky scored four touchdowns in propelling Ligonier Valley to a 34-14 road win against Apollo-Ridge in the Class 2A Allegheny Conference opener last week. Jablunovsky rushed 20 times for 94 yards and two TDs, caught three passes for 53 yards and a score, and produced a 90-yard kickoff return touchdown. Ligonier Valley QB Bowie Schreyer threw for 67 yards and a score, and he added a rushing touchdown. It was the 150th career victory for longtime Rams coach Roger Beitel. John Jablunovsky leads the Rams in numerous categories, including 57 rushes for 373 yards, five receptions for 69 yards, and seven total touchdowns. In each of their two setbacks, the Rams scored seven points, but scored 28 and 34 points in their triumphs.

About the Ironmen: Steel Valley claimed a 17-6 victory at Imani Christian last week in Class 2A Allegheny Conference play. However, a fight occurred in the final minute, resulting in ejections. The WPIAL has instructed each school to render its own discipline. Donald Barksdale paced the Ironmen with 25 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown. Through three contests, Steel Valley has been led by Donald Barksdale, who has compiled 261 yards rushing, while Da’ron Barksdale leads the squad with three TDs and has amassed 190 yards on the ground. Steel Valley is permitting just 9.7 points per game, the best mark in the conference. Ray Braszo is the veteran head coach for the Ironmen.

About the Matchup: Both teams captured conference wins last week, and they also both qualified for the playoffs a year ago. The head-to-head meeting in 2022 was dominated by the Ironmen, who won 48-0.

Springdale (1-3, 0-1) at Greensburg Central Catholic (2-2, 0-0) – 7 p.m.

About the Dynamos: Springdale was ousted at home against Leechburg 48-25 a week ago. Quarterback Chase Weihrauch went 8-of-23 for 110 yards, with a pair of touchdowns and an interception, while he also rushed 13 times for 91 yards. Colton Gent was his top option in the passing attack, as he caught four passes for 75 yards and two scores. On the campaign, Weihrauch has thrown for 363 yards, while rushing for 309 yards. Gent, meanwhile, tops the Dynamos with four touchdowns. Springdale has been outscored 132-95. Ryan Tempalski is in his second season on the sidelines for Springdale.

About the Centurions: Although the Centurions prolific duo of Tyree Turner and Samir Crosby hooked up for a touchdown, homestanding Greensburg Central Catholic fell 31-7 to Washington in nonconference play. Turner’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Crosby early in the fourth pulled GCC within 18-7, as Turner went 13-of-22 for 189 yards in the setback. Crosby caught five passes for 101 yards. For the season, Turner has thrown for 657 yards and six touchdowns through the air, while adding a team-best 161 yards rushing and four TDs. Additionally, Crosby has 14 grabs for 301 yards, while Landon Honick has compiled 11 catches for 188 yards.

About the Matchup: This contest marks the Class 1A Eastern Conference opener for Greensburg Central Catholic, while the Dynamos commenced conference play last week. The Centurions walloped Springdale 69-6 last season.

Monessen (1-3, 0-1) at California Area (3-1, 1-0) – 7 p.m.

About the Greyhounds: Monessen was blanked 28-0 at home against Bentworth last week in Tri-County South Conference play. Tyvaughn Kershaw leads the Greyhounds with four touchdowns, while Daevon Burke has scored three times. The Greyhounds have been outpaced 116-74 this campaign.

About the Trojans: California Area overwhelmed Jefferson-Morgan 48-21 a week ago. Quarterback Jake Layhue produced four rushing touchdowns in the win, while Spencer Petrucci rushed 22 times for 146 yards and two TDs. On the campaign, Petrucci has compiled 548 yards on the ground, and he and Layhue are deadlocked for the team lead with seven touchdowns apiece. The Trojans’ defense posted shutouts in each of the first two games this season. Ed Woods is the head coach for California.

Norwin (2-2, 1-0) at Woodland Hills (2-2, 1-0) – 7 p.m.

About the Knights: Norwin scored 23 unanswered points in the fourth quarter last week, completing the rally for a 30-23 win at home against Plum in the Class 5A Big East Conference opener. Knights QB Tristyn Tavares factored into all three of those scores in the fourth, as he produced a 4-yard run, and hooked up with Luke Denny on a pair of TD passes. Tavares went 11-of-23 for 185 yards, while Denny had three receptions for 127 yards. Jake Sincak also had a rushing touchdown. Tavares, a sophomore, has registered 50-of-96 passing for 812 yards and nine touchdowns this season. Jake Knight leads Norwin receivers with 19 grabs for 306 yards.

About the Wolverines: Woodland Hills edged host North Hills 21-20 last week in the Northeast Conference opener. Sophomore receiver Scoop Smith continued his incredible season, as he caught 10 passes for 210 yards and all three touchdowns. Cam Walter connected on 16-of-21 passes for 262 yards and three scores, while Zykir Moore and Elijah Newby each compiled 70 yards rushing. Smith has 29 receptions, which is tied for the top mark in the WPIAL, and his 543 yards receiving pace the district. Walter, also a sophomore, has hit on 56-of-80 passes for 863 yards, with eight TDs and three interceptions. Brian Tarrant is in his first season patrolling the sidelines for Woodland Hills.

About the Matchup: While both teams play in Class 5A, the game is a nonconference affair, as the Knights play in the Big East, while the Wolverines compete in the Northeast. Last season, Woodland Hills blanked Norwin 25-0.

Deer Lakes (3-1, 0-0) at Southmoreland (3-1, 0-0) – 7 p.m.

About the Lancers: Quarterback Derek Burk had an incredible performance in leading Deer Lakes to a 48-14 win at home against Greensburg Salem a week ago. The Lancers scored 48 unanswered points in the contest. Burk completed 11-of-12 throws for 251 yards and five touchdowns, while he rushed seven times for 78 yards and a touchdown. Wayne Love caught two passes for 129 yards and two scores, while Ryan Cochran added four receptions for 54 yards and a pair of touchdowns. For the season, Burk has thrown for 554 yards and 11 TDs. Zier Williams is the top rusher, as he’s amassed 43 carries for 385 yards. The Lancers have outscored their adversaries 34.0-10.5. Tim Burk, the father of the quarterback, is the head coach for Deer Lakes.

About the Scotties: Southmoreland could not solve the Knoch defense a week ago, as the Knights scored a 27-0 win at home against the Scotties in a nonconference clash of unbeaten teams. Scotties running back Da’sjon Craggette was held to just 17 yards on 19 carries. Moreover, Southmoreland QB Kadin Keefer went 16-of-28 for 144 yards, while Ty Keffer snagged nine catches for 91 yards. For the season, Craggette has rushed 64 times for 555 yards and seven TDs. Keffer, meanwhile, has contributed 22 catches for 273 yards and three scores. Four games into the season, Southmoreland has outscored its opponents 106-62.

About the Matchup: Both teams play in Class 3A, but the Lancers reside in the Allegheny Six Conference, while the Scotties play in the Interstate Conference. Last year, Deer Lakes prevailed 9-0.

Freeport Area (2-2, 0-0) at Mount Pleasant Area (3-1, 0-0) – 7 p.m.

About the Yellowjackets: Freeport Area suffered a lopsided loss, 52-16, at home against Armstrong a week ago. Brady Sullivan scored twice, on a 4-yard reception from Bryson Paga and a 50-yard kickoff return. The Yellowjackets allowed just six points combined in their two wins, but permitted 80 points in their two setbacks. Veteran coach John Gaillot remains at the helm of Freeport.

About the Vikings: Jackson Hutter accounted for more than 170 yards of total offense and three scores, while the Mount Pleasant defense produced four turnovers in a 25-6 win at home against Valley in a Class 3A nonconference tilt last week. Hutter carried seven times for 91 yards, including two TDs, and caught a pair of passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. Mount Pleasant also forced two fumbles and two interceptions. Camden Moore added a 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. On the season, Cole Chatfield has passed for 522 yards and six touchdowns. Hutter has rushed 24 times for 230 yards, while Garrett Eicher has notched 52 carries for 295 yards and a team-best five touchdowns. Luke Nicotera paces the Vikes with 13 catches for 230 yards. Mount Pleasant has outscored its foes 102-77.

About the Matchup: This marks a 3A nonconference clash, as Freeport Area competes in the Allegheny Six, while Mount Pleasant Area is in the Interstate. In a battle of playoff-bound teams last year, the Yellowjackets prevailed 24-6.

Greensburg Salem (1-3, 0-0) at East Allegheny (2-2, 0-0) – 7 p.m.

About the Golden Lions: Greensburg Salem was blasted on the road against Deer Lakes 48-14 last week. Dom Rosensteel caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Chismar to open the scoring in the contest, while Kai Brunot capped the scoring with a 9-yard run. Chismar went 15-of-28 for 131 yards, while Rosensteel caught four passes for 79 yards. On the campaign, Brunot has 50 carries for 237 yards, while Brady Smith has produced 36 attempts for 227 yards rushing. Greensburg Salem has been outscored 126-75 this season.

About the Wildcats: East Allegheny triumphed at South Allegheny 41-20 a week ago. However, the Wildcats have permitted 117 points through four contests, the most in their conference. Dom Pecora is the longtime head coach for EA.

About the Matchup: Both teams play in Class 3A, but it’s a nonconference battle, as the Golden Lions are in the Interstate Conference, while the Wildcats call the Allegheny Six home. A year ago, East Allegheny doubled up Greensburg Salem, 42-21.

Uniontown Area (2-2, 0-0) at Valley (1-3, 0-0) – 7 p.m.

About the Red Raiders: Uniontown Area was blanked 36-0 at Albert Gallatin last week in a Fayette County showdown. Cameron Jackson has been the catalyst offensively for the Red Raiders this season, as he’s scored seven touchdowns, while nobody else has more than one TD. Uniontown has been outscored 108-92 on the campaign. The Red Raiders, who play an independent schedule, are under the guidance of coach Keith Jeffries.

About the Vikings: Valley absorbed a 25-6 setback against Mount Pleasant Area in a Westmoreland County battle a week ago. The Vikings’ lone touchdown came on a 7-yard connection from Tristin Goodwin to Derek Hassim. Goodwin, who split time at QB, was 11-of-24 passing for 76 yards, with a TD and two interceptions. Additionally, he rushed 13 times for 79 yards and caught two passes for 16 yards. Valley has been outscored 111-48 on the season.