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Written by: Hal Wilson on Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
We are pleased to run a series, Great PA Teams, by the great Hal Wilson, a long time contributor to PA High
School Football. Hal has written many stories in the past for PAFootballNews dating back to
our print days.
In the growing suburbs in Allegheny County north of Pittsburgh two townships have
joined and formed an athletic powerhouse. Pine and Richland, based in Gibsonia, joined
in 1993 to form the Pine – Richland School District with a then population of more than
25,000 residents. Earlier, in 1969 and 1970, Richland High School in what was known then
as the Babcock School District had completed perfect seasons with WPIAL A championships.
In 2017, coming from the disappointment of recent seasons and spearheaded by one of the
finest quarterbacks ever produced in the WPIAL, the Pine – Richland Rams raced
through a 16-0 season climaxed by a 41-21 victory over a St. Joseph’s Prep team that was
13-0, riding a 27 game winning streak, and had won three of the previous four titles in
the top PIAA classification. The all-winning Pine – Richland Rams are considered one of
the finest teams ever produced in the WPIAL.
Phil Jurkovec releases a pass as he goes down on the frozen turf at Hershey
Phil Jurkovec was the All-Everything Rams QB who dominated every game and led his
team to the title. He had committed to Notre Dame before his junior season. Hindered
by minor injuries in 2016, his 2017 season was an amazing story of gridiron success.
At 6-5 and 220, he was blessed with great athletic ability and superb leadership skills.
Jurkovec passed for an astounding 3,969 yards, completing 245 of 337 throws for 39
touchdowns. He ran for 1,211 yards in 135 attempts, scoring 21 times. It was his ability
to run with the ball that was a major factor in the demise of the St. Joseph’s Hawks.
The 2017 season began with a 41-0 win over Wayne, a good program from Huber
Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton.. Next came a game hosting Mt, Lebanon where
Jurkovec put on an amazing aerial show gaining 429 yards raining TD’s on the Blue
Devils.as the Rams won 53-29. In the shootout, the two squads totaled more than
1,100 yards in offense with Mt. Lebanon compiling 570. The Blue Devils’ wide
receiver Aidan Cain caught a State Record 27 passes for 350 yards.
A Snowy Hershey Park Stadium was the setting for the Rams State Title win
Then the Rams began to roll, smashing Penn Hills, Central Catholic, Butler at home and
demolishing Bethel Park, Peters Township, Shaler and North Allegheny on the road.
As the playoffs began, the WPIAL sent Norwin’s Knights to Pine- Richland. P-R won
49-14 and then went to Ambridge for a rematch with North Allegheny. This rivalry
semi final ended 49-25. Playing at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field for the WPIAL 6A title, the
Rams dispatched Central Catholic’s Vikings 42-7.
In the PIAA quarter final, the Rams defeated hopeful State College 49-21 at Hempfield.
Moving on to Altoona’s Mansion Park, Pine-Richland downed Manheim Township 28-7,
despite an illness that touched a significant portion of the roster, including Jurkovec.
In the State 6A final on a snow-covered Hersheypark Stadium field, Pine-Richland
worked to a 14-7 half-time lead then scored three times in the third quarter to lead 35-14.
A Jordan Crawford 12 yard touchdown run in the fourth made it 41-14. Jurkovec had
runs of 1, 17, 13, and 6 yards for touchdowns, He was 15 for 27 and 200 yards,
including a 25 yard TD throw to Ben Jochem late in the third quarter. The St. Joseph’s
Hawks lost four fumbles. The Rams had outgained the Philadelphia Catholic
champions by 385 to 314.
Coach Eric Kasperowicz was a four-year starter at quarterback at North Hills, leading
the Indians to WPIAL and State championships as a 1993 senior. He was named PA
Player of the Year and made Parade All-American. He engineered a late Final rally
bringing North Hills a 15-14 victory over perennial power CB West. He lettered each of his
four years at Pitt, starting at linebacker as a junior and senior.
He then coached for 12 years at North Hills. He moved to Pine-Richland in 2010 as
offensive coordinator. Long-time P-R coach Clair Altemus retired after the 2012 season
and Kasperowicz was named to succeed him.
Coach Kasperowicz, North Hills Photo Post Gazette Mike White
This was a veteran Ram team with talent beyond Jurkovec. Jordan Crawford ran for
1,283 yard and 25 touchdowns while Kenny White covered 743 yards and 10 TD’s.
Crawford, Dawson Goltz, Ben Jochem and particularly Jason Defrancisis.
and Ray Falcone provided a rainbow of five excellent receivers.
The offensive line with three juniors and two seniors provided Jurkovec with both
pass protection and running lanes. Their work against the big Hawk defensive line
in the Final was outstanding.
Pine-Richland’s basic offense spread the field, making effective defense difficult.
2017 Rams awesome offense:
WR 4 Dawson GOLTZ 6-1 160 SR
LT 55 Grant LEMIRANDE 6-1 245 SR
LG 53 Parker BOYD 6-2 255 SR
C 64 Michael DORUNDO 6-2 255 JR
RG 68 Michael KATIC 6-4 270 JR
RT 73 Andrew KRISTOFIC 6-6 265 JR
H 20 Ben JOCHEM 6-0 180 SR
QB 15 Phil JURKOVEC 6-5 220 SR
RB 3 Jordan CRAWFORD 5-9 170 SR
1 Kenny WHITE 6-0 200 SR
WR 17 Jason DEFRANCISIS 5-9 170 SR
WR 5 Ray FALCONE 6-1 190 SR
Great PA Teams – Pine-Richland 2017 3
Place Kicking was the responsibility 27 Vittorio ORSINI 5-9 165. Punting when
required was the duty of 2 Cam BALLAY 6-1 200. 50 Nick DZIELSKI 6-2 225
was an important line reserve.
N 68 Michael KATIC 6-4 270 JR
T 73 Andrew KRISTOFIC 6-6 265 JR
DE 6 Tommy CAMINO 6-1 217 SR
DE 74 Peyton BYRD 5-10 215 SR
LB 8 Tyler KING 6-1 220 JR
LB 34 Anthony CERMINARA 5-10 210 JR
LB 42 Jared MARFISI 6-0 215 SR
FS 2 Luke MECKLER 5-9 160 SO
BS 1 Kenny WHITE 6-0 200 SR
20 Ben JOCHEM 6-0 180 SR
FC 3 Jordan CRAWFORD 5-9 170 SR
BC 4 Dawson GOLTZ 6-1 160 SR
18 Thomas BURNS 5-10 170 filled in ably at CB while junior 77 Brendan
ECKENRODE 6-1 195 saw action at defensive end.
The 16-0 Rams sensational record:
41 WAYNE, Huber Heights, Ohio 0
53 MT. LEBANON 29
42 SENECA VALLEY 7
43 PENN HILLS 6
54 BETHEL PARK 20
47 PITTSBURGH CENTRAL CATHOLIC 17
56 PETERS TOWNSHIP 7
49 SHALER 0
64 BUTLER 0
48 NORTH ALLEGHENY 28
49 NORWIN 14
49 NORTH ALLEGHENY 25
42 PITTSBURGH CENTRAL CATHOLIC 7
PIAA STATE Playoffs
49 STATE COLLEGE 21
28 MANHEIM TOWNSHIP 7
41 ST. JOSEPH’S PREP Philadelphia 21
The St. Joseph’s Hawks were thought in some quarters to be unbeatable – but they
were facing an extraordinary quarterback and perhaps the best team to come out
of the WPIAL in decades.
To win the Hawks needed to keep Jurkovec and company off the field. They couldn’t,
as a stout Ram defense aided by five turnovers, including four fumbles, gave the Rams
the opportunities they needed.
Coach Kasperowicz had commented before the game that St. Joseph’s had players
from New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware, while his were all “home-grown”.
In addition to Jurkovec’s early commitment to Notre Dame, junior tackle Kristofic
also selected the Irish before the end of his junior season. Kristofic and Jurkovec
were consensus first team 2017 All-Staters, Other Rams who were honored
included Jason Defrancisis, Tyler King, Jordan Crawford and Michael Katic.
In 2018, another strong Pine-Richland team dominated WPIAL play but lacked
the overwhelming offensive power of the Jurkovec led squad. Seneca Valley was
beaten 34-7 in the 6A Final. After the Rams outscored State College 56-33 in
the PIAA playoffs , the St. Joseph’s Hawks gained a significant measure of
revenge with a 37-0 rout at Altoona. The Hawks went on to win another State
In 2014, the Rams with star quarterback Ben DiNucci won the WPIAL’s top 4A
division but lost a 49-41 battle with St. Joseph’s Prep for the State crown.
In 2003, Pine Richland had won the WPIAL 3A title but lost a 39-38 two
overtime State 3A final to Manheim Central when a late two-point conversion
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