Westmoreland football notebook: Greensburg Salem hopes to complete turnaround
Win and you’re in.
There aren’t many motivating factors better than that one in the final week of a regular season.
Greensburg Salem could be like Latrobe and become another local turnaround story if the Golden Lions can win Friday night at Indiana.
They have not been to the WPIAL playoffs since 2011 but can extend their season.
Both teams are 3-6 overall and 3-3 in the Class 4A Big Eight. The winner gets fourth place and a postseason berth. The key for Greensburg Salem this week has been to understand the game’s significance while also trying to treat it like any other week -- easier said than done.
“Any time your games have meaning this late in the season, it’s a good thing,” Golden Lions coach Dave Keefer said. “You treat it like any other week, but the focus has to be a little sharper and you tend to be a little more thorough. It comes down to the kids showing up excited to play and executing the scheme: focus on the goals that have won games this year and what you need to accomplish to win this game.”
Southmoreland (4-5) will play an intriguing Week 9 game at Greensburg Central Catholic (6-3), and Scotties quarterback Zach Cernuto will look to add to his record-breaking season. Cernuto, a sophomore, broke the school’s single-season passing record last week in a 58-35 loss to Washington. The record was 1,730 yards, and it was set in 2011 by Bo Datz. Cernuto passed the mark and then passed some more. He has 1,804 yards and is averaging 25 pass attempts a game. Obviously, nobody in school history has thrown for 2,000 yards.
“Zach is very mature for a sophomore,” Scotties coach Dave Keefer said. “He’s an intelligent kid with a high football IQ. Also, he’s ultracompetitive. I credit the kids and the staff. They really have responded well this year. We’ve had a lot of people contribute.”
Cernuto, who trails Ligonier Valley senior John Caldwell by 102 yards for the county lead, has 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for the Scotties, whose go-for-broke approach on offense has produced numbers the program has not seen in years. The Scotties are averaging more points (35.3) than they’re giving up (34.2) for the first time since 2003.
Junior receiver Riley Comforti has emerged from the pass-happy offense. He has 44 receptions for 687 yards. Only Ligonier Valley star Aaron Tutino (45) has more catches among county receivers.
Jeannette chases perfection
As the Jeannette Football Tradition Twitter account pointed out, Jeannette (9-0, 5-0 Eastern Conference) will go for its 20th undefeated regular season Friday night when it hosts Clairton (8-0, 5-0). The last time Jeannette went unbeaten heading into the playoffs was 2011.
The 2007 team went 16-0 for the season.
The Jayhawks have not won back-to-back conference titles since 2006-07.
Jeannette made the playoffs for the 41st time, one behind Aliquippa for the WPIAL record.
Shoaf nears milestone
Yough senior running back Dustin Shoaf is nearing the 5,000-yard milestone. He needs just 110 yards to hit the mark, which would make him the fourth player in Westmoreland County to reach 5,000. The others are: Matt Gavrish of Penn-Trafford (6,534); Max Suter of Greensburg Central Catholic (5,252); and Jason Murray of Belle Vernon (5,046).
Shoaf, who is gunning for a second straight WPIAL rushing title, recently picked up his third scholarship offer, from Lake Erie College. The others are from Cal (Pa.) and Slippery Rock, also Division II programs.
Home sweet home
If Derry runs its home winning streak to 20 games in two weeks, that means the Trojans will have clinched one of the top two spots in the 3A Big East and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. The Trojans have been unstoppable at Trojan Stadium. They have not lost there since Sept. 25, 2015 against Laurel (40-0).
Home games at Derry are a true event. The town empties, the fire department blares sirens for warmups and touchdowns, and it’s a chaotic scene in the parking lot after wins.
“The whole atmosphere at home is great, with the community ... we have the student section and band,” senior receiver Jason Geary said. “Also, pretty much every away game we play is on turf, and there’s something special we all like about playing on our grass field.”
Geary made a fantastic, one-handed touchdown grab last week against Deer Lakes. He revealed later he had just removed his gloves after they ripped on the previous play.
So does that mean he might go gloveless this week when Derry hosts Burrell?
“I guess so,” Geary said.
Belle Vernon senior lineman Anthony Rebar (6-3, 240) was offered by Lake Erie College.