Mike White's Xtra Points: Phil Jurkovec brings ESPN to Pine-Richland again
April 21, 2017 12:00 AM
Quarterback Phil Jurkovec and Pine-Richland will play on national television next season.
By Mike White / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Most high school football players will never get a chance to play a game live on national television, even if they play in college. At Pine-Richland, the Rams will get a chance to shine on ESPN’s big picture two consecutive seasons.
Thank Phil Jurkovec.
ESPN has decided to televise Pine-Richland’s season opener, a home game Aug. 27 against Wayne High School of Ohio. It’s a made-for-TV matchup.
“It’s 100 percent Phil driven,” said Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz.
ESPN likes to televise maybe 10 high school games on one weekend in late August, a week before college football starts. The station likes to feature games with top teams and hotshot players, which leads to Jurkovec, Pine-Richland’s terrific quarterback who is ranked among the top junior QBs in the country. Jurkovec already has made a verbal commitment to Notre Dame and ESPN apparently has made a commitment to showcasing Jurkovec.
Last August, ESPN showed the Pine-Richland at St. Edward’s game live on national television. Kasperowicz said he was under the impression that the plan was to have the same two teams play again this year on ESPN — only at Pine-Richland. Pine-Richland should have one of the best 6A teams in the state this season.
But ESPN said hold on.
“ESPN likes to showcase the best talent in the country, and it came out that ESPN didn’t want St. Ed’s again because they apparently didn’t have any high-profile guys,” said Kasperowicz. “So we either played a regular home game against St. Ed’s, or we play Wayne on national television on ESPN. For me, it was a no brainer.”
Pine-Richland athletic director Josh Shoop said the contract for the game was to be signed this week.
“I said from day one at Pine-Richland that I wanted to find the best competition to play,” said Kasperowicz. “I think ESPN broadcasting the game is great for our community, the city of Pittsburgh, the state and Western Pennsylvania.”
Wayne High was 11-1 in Ohio’s largest classification last season and features two players ranked among the top 175 juniors in the country by ESPN. Receiver L’Christian Smith is No. 112 and has scholarship offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame, among others. Wayne’s Alex Reigelsperger is ranked No. 166 and has committed to Kentucky.
Jurkovec is ranked No. 60.
Book on New Castle
New Castle had a special basketball team in 2014, becoming the first from the WPIAL to go undefeated in 31 years. One man felt New Castle’s team was special enough to write a book about the Red Hurricanes.
“Together” is written by longtime Westminster College department of education professor Darwin Huey. The book, released only a few months ago, chronicles the New Castle team’s perfect season and how the Red Hurricanes lifted up a small Western Pa. town.
Huey, 65, said New Castle coach Ralph Blundo was first asked to write the book, but didn’t have time. Blundo and Huey have been longtime acquaintances and Huey taught Blundo when Blundo attended Westminster. Huey also attended a number of New Castle games in the 2013-14 season.
“That team brought a lot of honor to a city that had some tough going and I’m proud of what Ralph has become. He’s done things the right way,” said Huey.
Huey said the first print of the book was for 250 copies through Doc Publishing, but Huey said it sold out. More copies are being printed and the book is available online at amazon.com and also lulu.com.
“I didn’t write it to see how many it would sell,” said Huey. “I dedicated it to the players, the coaches and the community and to honor them for what they did.”
Win wins more
As a head coach at Sewickley Academy, Win Palmer already has two WPIAL titles this school year. Could another Palmer-coached team contend for a third championship?
The Sewickley Academy softball team entered mid week with a 4-1 record. Palmer coaches the team, as well as two others at Sewickley Academy. His boys golf team won a WPIAL title last fall and his boys basketball team won WPIAL and PIAA titles in March.
Jordan Geist’s quest to set the national high school record in the shot put will continue again Friday night when he competes in the Butler Invitational at Butler High School.
Last year, Geist set a PIAA championship meet record and a personal best when he threw 74 feet, 3½ inches. He was only the fourth high school athlete in the U.S. to throw 74 feet. But Geist already has beaten that mark. He threw 74-10¼ at the Bojangles Classic in Columbia, S.C., two weeks ago.
The national record is 77 feet, by Michael Carter of Jefferson High (Texas) in 1979.
Check this out
• Maybe the Serra baseball team hasn’t faced the stiffest of competition. Or maybe the Eagles are just simply knocking the cover off the ball, no matter the opponent.
Whatever the reason, Serra is putting up offensive statistics like no other team in the WPIAL. Through the first eight games, Serra was 8-0 and averaging 14 runs a contest. Five Serra players were hitting better than .500 — Mike Ulishney, Ben Bowen, Nate Piontka, Ben Visnesky and Zach Brown.
• The story of Latrobe senior Austin Butler’s track exploits continues to amaze. How many future Division I college basketball guards also throw the javelin — and throw it well? But that’s what Butler does, recording the second-best reported javelin throw in WPIAL Class 3A this spring. Yet, he also is throwing the shot put at dual meets. Butler is a 6-foot-4 guard and a Holy Cross basketball recruit.
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