Pine-Richland Wins First WPIAL AAAA Crown, Dethrones Central Catholic

Posted on:

Approaching the WPIAL championship game, Pine-Richland head coach Eric Kasperowicz said the title tilt with the Central Catholic Vikings would come down to defense. He couldn’t have been more accurate as the Rams defeated the reigning champion Vikings, 21-13, behind a rock solid defense for Pine-Richland’s first Class AAAA WPIAL crown and second overall WPIAL title.

The game was a far cry from the 76-point explosion the two teams combined for in week eight as the teams battled to a scoreless tie through one half of play.  Pine-Richland’s high-powered offense finally gained some momentum on the first drive of the second half and marched 76 yards on 10 plays for the game’s first score.  The Rams culminated the drive on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Ben DiNucci to Michael Merhaut for a 7-0 lead with 10:24 to go in the third quarter. Including the touchdown catch, Merhaut finished the game with eight receptions for 114 yards.

For Central Catholic, this title contest came down to two fumbles, one committed by the Vikings in the first half and another that was recovered by the Vikings in the second half but didn’t count. On the first drive of the game, Central Catholic seemed poised to take the early lead with a march to the PR 11-yard line, but a fumble by John Petrishen on the drive’s 13th play derailed the possession. The loose ball was recovered by the Rams Brendan Burnham at the PR 20-yard line.

Late in the third quarter with Pine-Richland leading 7-0, the Rams were driving but coughed up the football on an Earnest Williams fumble that was recovered by Central Catholic’s Romello Broughton at the Vikings 6-yard line. However, the officials ruled that a premature inadvertent whistle was blown, thus denying the Vikings’ recovery and forcing the down to be replayed.  It didn’t get any better for Central Catholic as one play later PR senior receiver D’ondre Gastion accepted a reverse pitch from Connor Slomka and tossed a 12-yard touchdown pass to DiNucci for a 14-0 Pine-Richland lead.

Needing to respond, the Vikings took the ensuing possession 77 yards in 13 plays and capped the nearly seven  minute drive with a 5-yard touchdown run by Petrishen to cut the score to 14-7, Rams, with 7:54 remaining in the game. Despite holding the Rams on their next possession, Central Catholic could come no closer and failed on a fake punt deep in its own territory with less than two minutes to play.  Pine-Richland put the game on ice moments later when DiNucci ran the ball in from 6-yards out to bring the score to 21-7 with 1:11 left to play. The scoring play completed a hat trick of sorts for DiNucci who passed for touchdown, rushed for a touchdown and caught a touchdown.  The senior quarterback, who is committed to play at Penn University next season, completed 16 of 29 passes for 174 yards with one passing touchdown and one interception.

Central Catholic capped the scoring with a 37-yard touchdown pass by Gunnar Frerotte to Graham Adomitis as time expired to bring the final score to 21-13, Pine-Richland. The focal point of the wildcat offense for the second straight week, Central Catholic senior John Petrishen rushed 34 times for 170 yards and one touchdown.  Regular starting running back Grant Foster did not play in the game due to injury.

Pine-Richland improves to 13-0 on the season and will pursue a state title in the PIAA playoffs next week.  Central Catholic’s quest for a second straight WPIAL championship ends with a mark of 11-2, with both losses coming at the hands of the Rams.

(photo courtesy of MSA Sports)

Southeastern Conference - First Team

Doug AltavillaBaldwinQB
Alexander MintonBethel ParkRB
Miles SandersWoodland HillsRB
Billy KisnerPenn HillsMB
Nick AltavillaBaldwinWR
Tim SwoopePeters TownshipWR
Josh ZinmeisterBaldwinTE
Amon Baldwin-YoungloodWoodland HillsT
Matt HoffmanMt. LebanonT
Mike AmesPenn HillsG
Wilford ClarkWoodland HillsG
Jake CassidyWoodland HillsC
Max HeroldUpper St. ClairK
Dan GibsonWoodland HillsDL
Chris PauleyBethel ParkDL
Akira McCleanWoodland HillsDL
Tyler GlantonPenn HillsDL
Christian Randall-PoseyPenn HillsLB
LeKwon BowdenWoodland HillsLB
Marcus GalieUpper St. ClairLB
Ben BruniMt. LebanonLB
Malik RussellPenn HillsDB
Art ThompkinsWoodland HillsDB
Mike KrennUpper St. ClairDB
Mike NashWoodland HillsDB
Jesse SlingerUpper St. ClairP
George NovakWoodland HillsCoach of the Year