No one expected Manheim Township to beat Pine-Richland. Yes the Blue Streaks were coming off their first district title in school history, but Pine-Richland was nationally ranked. Pine-Richland’s quarterback was headed to Notre Dame. No one believed, except the players and coaches. For two plus quarters Saturday afternoon, Manheim Township made it a game. Just when you thought they could actually pull off the upset, Pine-Richland buttoned down and pulled away advancing to the 6A Finals with a 28-7 win.
The game featured two future D-1 quarterbacks. For the Rams, Philip Jurkovec is a Notre Dame commit and one of the best passers in WPIAL history. For the Blue Streaks, Luke Emge is Harvard bound and plays like it. Always smart and efficient, but on his first possession Pine-Richland made him do something he doesn’t usually do. Turn it over. Anthony Cerminara stripped Emge deep in his own territory setting Jurkovec up nicely.
Jurkovec made the most of the opportunity finding Raymond Falcone over the middle giving Pine-Richland a 6-0 lead. Manheim Township made sure to make things uncomfortable for Jurkovec all afternoon, but his next level talent flashed on a forty yard TD strike to Jordan Crawford. Jurkovec completed the pass while being dragged to the ground, the kind of thing you rarely see even an NFL quarterback do.
To win this game Manheim Township needed a turnover or a special teams play. They got one second quarter when Drake Puffenbarger blocked a punt setting the Blue Streaks up in the redzone. But the Pine-Richland defense forced a turnover on downs and took a 13-0 lead into halftime.
Early in the third quarter Manheim Township briefly cut it to a one score game when Grayson Sallade rushed in from the ten. As soon as belief swept over the Manheim Township crowd, Pine-Richland took it away.
Jurkovec showed off his arm strength again with a deep ball to get his team into Blue Streak territory. Crawford would then rush up the middle from the thirty to make it 21-7. On the ensuing Blue Streak possession, Pine-Richland forced a fumble giving Jurkovec back the ball in scoring range. Jurkovec took it himself this time, rushing up the middle to give Pine-Richland a 28-7 lead.
The Rams were able to run out the clock in the 4th for a 28-7 win. The best season in Manheim Township history coming to a close in Altoona. Pine-Richland will advance to Hershey to face St. Joe’s Prep in the 6A finals.