Staff Writer

Luke Campbell has been handling a multitude of tasks since joining the Observer-Reporter in 2015, following his graduation from Waynesburg University. He graduated from Waynesburg with a bachelor’s degree in sports broadcasting and information.

Josh Casilli

Peters Township’s Josh Casilli

The more you sit through a mismatch, the colder it feels.

I’m sure many WPIAL high school football fans were bitter, both by weather and results, Friday night.

Of the 16 playoff games, only Gateway’s 17-13 win over Bethel Park in a Class 5A quarterfinal was decided by single digits.

No don’t get me wrong, the Class 4A quarterfinal game between Belle Vernon and South Fayette – the game I covered – was fantastic from start to end even for the 11-point difference on the scoreboard.

The average margin of victory in those 16 playoff games was 23.3 points.

Yikes!

Here is what else we learned from a chilly Friday night.

1. The wrinkle

Prior to Friday night’s game, Moon football coach Ryan Linn said all teams have stuff in the back of their playbook when referencing the rematch with Peters Township.

In the back of the playbook and back pocket of Peters Township coach T.J. Plack was a formation they have tinkered with in the past: the wildcat with Josh Casilli taking direct snaps.

It’s about putting the ball in the hands of your best player. The Indians did that with Casilli, who was held to one catch for six yards in the first game against Moon.

On Friday night, the Penn recruit caught two passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. Out of the wildcat formation, Casilli had 15 carries for 159 yards and another score.

Aidan McCall and Ryan Magiske also had success on the ground for the Indians.

“They’re ready to graduate,” Plack said. “So we’re going to use them as much as possible.”

I can’t blame him for thinking like that.

2. Jackson breaks record

Ben Jackson’s record-breaking season may be over, however, the West Greene senior running back made sure to add to his long list of achievements Friday night.

Jackson became the first WPIAL player to run for 3,000 yards in a single season during a semifinal loss to Sto-Rox, in which he ran for 150 yards. Jackson finished his season with 3,066 yards. The single-season rushing record was previously held by Zane Dudek, who ran for 2,949 yards in 2016.

He also had 50 touchdowns on the season, falling just one score shy of the single-season record set by Clairton’s Tyler Boyd in 2012.

3. Comedy named finalist

Washington senior offensive lineman Gerald Comedy has been selected as one of six finalists for the Bill Fralic Memorial Award, which recognizes the WPIAL’s most outstanding lineman.

Fralic, who was a Penn Hills, Pitt and NFL standout, died of cancer last December at age 56. This is the inaugural year of the award.

Comedy is a three-year starter for the Prexies, playing on both sides of the ball as a center and defensive tackle. After missing Washington’s first-round playoff game with a shoulder injury, he played offense in Friday night’s win over Freedom.

The other finalists, one from each classification, include: Hempfield’s Fintan Brose, Moon’s Brenden Luffey, Thomas Jefferson’s Logan Danielson, Aliquippa’s Elijah Mike and Jeannette’s Zach Crutchman.

The winner will be announced, fittingly, at a pancake breakfast Dec. 7 at Oakmont Country Club.

4. Hartman continues comeback

There might not be many stories better than what Belle Vernon’s Jared Hartman has been able to accomplish this season.

The senior quarterback made sure there was one more chapter in that story with another great game in a 41-30 win over South Fayette in a WPIAL Class 4A semifinal game Friday night.

Hartman completed 15 of 18 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns for the Leopards.

The successful night for Hartman, who helped Belle Vernon advance to its first WPIAL title appearance since 1999, added to his already efficient season. He has completed 76% of his passes (118 of 154) for 1,715 yards and 29 touchdowns.

Hartman also picked up several crucial first downs for the Leopards with designed runs.

5. What’s next

There are only three area teams remaining in the playoffs, only Belle Vernon knows where and when it will play.

The Leopards play Thomas Jefferson Saturday at Heinz Field (5 p.m.).

In a rematch of last year’s Class 5A quarterfinal, fifth-seeded Peters Township will play top-seeded Penn-Trafford Friday.

In Class 2A, top-seeded Washington will likely not have a far trip to make when it plays fifth-seeded Brentwood in a quarterfinal game.

The sites for Peters Township and Washington will be released by the WPIAL Monday morning.

Staff writer Luke Campbell can be reached at lcampbell@observer-reporter.com.

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