CLARION — Brockway quarterback Derek Buganza became the all-time single-season Pennsylvania passing leader Friday night when he threw for 389 yards in a 42-40 loss to Karns City in the District 9 Class AA title game, giving him 3,824 yards on the year.
Buganza, a junior, broke the previous record of 3,674 set in 2004 by Mechanicsburg’s Zach Frazer, who is now quarterbacking at Connecticut.
"The record is outstanding, phenomenal," Brockway head coach Frank Varischetti said. "There are 500 schools that play football in Pennsylvania, they’ve been playing since 1900 and nobody has thrown for more yards in a season than he has. Amazing. He works on what he does and is very good at it. I know a lot of people think anybody could get these numbers throwing as much as we do. But if people could do it, they’d do it. It’s very rare you get someone as intelligent and talented as he is and his receivers are."
Buganza also set the District 9 career passing record in the game. In just two seasons he has thrown for 6,747 yards, which breaks the previous mark of 6,638 set by Smethport’s Mike DeFillipi in the late 1990s.
This year, Buganza, who entered play Friday night ranked 24th in the nation in passing in the MaxPreps.com rankings, finished the season completing over 60 percent of his passes (256 of 423) while throwing 37 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. In the loss to Karns City, he was 28-of-59 for 389 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Brockway finished the season 8-4. Buganza’s 3,824 passing yards this year were just 91 points shy of former District 9 star and NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly’s career passing yardage of 3,985 when Kelly was at the now defunct East Brady High School. Ironically, many of the kids who would have played for East Brady now play for Karns City.
Buganza wasn’t the only record setter for the Rovers on Friday night, as junior receiver Mike Vervoort had nine catches for 83 yards, giving him 88 grabs on the year for a district-record 1,390 yards. He broke the previous receiving yards mark of 1,349 set by Clearfield’s Wes Dahlem in 1994. Vervoort has hauled in 16 touchdowns.
Brockway had two 1,000-yard receivers this season, as junior Jake Shaffer had 66 grabs for 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns after catching seven passes for 151 yards against Karns City.
Two-time PIAA "AAA" champion, 3-time WPIAL champ TJ loses
There will be a new king of the mountain in the WPIAL and PIAA in Class AAA as two-time defending PIAA and three-time defending WPIAL champion Thomas Jefferson was knocked off by Mike Caputo and West Allegheny 28-21 Friday night.
Caputo ran for 259 yards and two touchdowns, including a 96-yard touchdown run, to hand Thomas Jefferson its first loss to a WPIAL opponent since the 2004 WPIAL Class AAA title game when Franklin Regional beat the Jaguars, a steak that lasted 48 games. It also ended TJ’s 26-game winning streak.
"To take down those guys is saying something," West Allegheny head coach Bob Palko told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He knows a thing or two about winning WPIAL titles, having won three in a row from 1999-2001 and four of five from 1997-2001, including a PIAA Class AAA title in 2001.
Caputo and West Allegheny will now face Hopewell and its star sophomore running back Rushel Shell in the WPIAL championship game Friday at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field. Hopewell, looking for its WPIAL title since winning Class AAA in 2002, beat Hampton 31-9 behind Shell, who ran for 157 yards and three touchdowns. Shell now has 3,981 yards in his career.
Woodland Hills, Gateway to meet for WPIAL Class AAAA title
Until last year, Woodland Hills and Gateway played in the same section in the WPIAL Class AAAA and has some epic battles. They are now in different sections, but everything will be at stake when they meet Friday night at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field for the WPIAL Class AAAA title.
Woodland Hills, which is looking for its first championship since winning the second of two straight in 2002 (they also won three in four years from 1999-2002), advanced to the title game with a nail-biting 38-35 win over defending champion Bethel Park on Friday night. The Wolverines won the game on a 20-yard Sam Scifo field goal after Bethel Park had rallied from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Matt Bliss to Alex Baroffino with 21 seconds to play. Dom Timbers ran for 141 yards and three touchdowns to lead Woodland Hills.
Gateway had a little easier time of things getting to the championship game with a 42-20 win over North Hills that saw the Gators scored the game’s final 14 points. Senior quarterback Rob Kalkstein was 10-of-14 passing for 149 yards and two touchdowns.
This will be Gateway’s third straight trip to the WPIAL title game, but the Gators haven’t won a title since 1986. Last year they fell 10-6 to Bethel Park after losing 35-34 to Pittsburgh Central Catholic in 2007.
Clairton earns chance to defend WPIAL Class A title with rematch win over Laurel
In Week 1, Laurel upset defending WPIAL Class A champion and state-runner up Clairton 15-8.
The Bears got their revenge in a big way Friday night ending the Spartans season with a convincing 33-0 win in the WPIAL semifinals behind 150 yards rushing and two touchdowns from Deontae Howard. Clairton, which is looking for its third title since 2006, will face Rochester, which is in search of its first title since 2002. The Rams beat North Catholic 14-7 when Jason Adamson hit Terry Gettings with a 65-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to break a 7-all tie. Adamson was 5-of-9 on the night for 124 yards and the score.
Rochester lost to Clairton 16-0 in last year’s semifinals.
Aliquippa gunning for repeat in WPIAL Class AA
The WPIAL Class AA title game features one of the most historic programs in the WPIAL, Aliquippa, vs. Greensburg Central Catholic, which is making its third title-game appearance in five years but has never won a title.
Aliquippa advanced to the championship game with a 17-10 revenge win against rival Beaver Falls. The Tigers had beaten the Quips 21-14 Sept. 18 but trailed 17-0 at halftime Friday before rallying for 10 points in the third quarter to make it a game.
Greensburg Central Catholic, which started the year 2-2 but hasn’t lost since, is back in the championship game for the first time since losing 24-14 to Terrelle Pryor and Jeannette in 2006. The Centurions held off Keystone Oaks 24-19 Friday night thanks to big games from David Miller (212 yards rushing, 1 touchdown), Evan Marshall (4 catches, 111 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Trent Hurley (9-of-19 passing, 158 yards, 2 touchdowns).
Karns City wins third straight D9 Class AA title
After winning its second straight District 9 Class AA championship last year, Karns City lost 23 seniors to graduation. That didn’t turn out to be a problem for the Gremlins, who claimed their third straight D9 AA title with a shootout 42-40 win over Brockway Friday night in Buganza’s record-setting game.
The Gremlins actually led 42-27 with less than seven minutes to play but had to stop a Brockway two-point conversion with 2:41 left to preserve the lead. Karns City then picked up a fourth-and-1 with less than two minutes to play to seal the victory.
Aaron Markle had a big-play night for Karns City scoring on a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown and on a 92-yard run while picking up 159 yards rushing. Jake Wagner added two touchdown runs and 76 yards rushing for the Gremlins. Karns City is the only District 9 school to win three straight titles regardless of classification, and this is the second time the Gremlins have done so. They also won three in a row from 1999-2001.
Too long to be brief, too short to be a ramble
A couple of things really stuck out at me from last week.
1. Every once in a while you get reminded that sports are just a game. That couldn't be truer in the case of Thomas Jefferson quarterback Sam Johnston. The senior saw his team fall to a WPIAL opponent for the first time sinec the 2005 Class AAA title game despite him passing for 139 yards. But Johnston got one of those life shocks Thursday that no tennager should ever have to deal with. His father Bob, died suddenly and unexpectedly Thursday from a brain hemorrhage. TJ head coach Bill Cherpak let Johnston make the decision on whether or not to play Friday night, and the senior decided to play with the heavy heart. TJ might have lost the game, but Johnston made his dad proud.
2. I don't care what league or what district you play in; when a quarterback throws for nearly 4,000 yards in a high school season, that is an accomplishment to just shake your head at. Buganza's state record-setting year is amazing in itself. It is even more amazing considering that when Buganza started playing football, the Rovers were a Wing-T, option team. Until head coach Frank Varischetti took over the program from long-time successful head coach Ray Reckner three years ago, Brockway might not have passed the ball 50 times in a season let alone in one game like they did Friday night. But Varischetti has opened up the offense, and Buganza has responded in a record-setting way. The junior quarterback now owns not only the single-season record but also the single-game record in Pennsylvania, which he set earlier this year. The only real knock on him is that he is 5-foot-11, but you have to believe someone is going to take a good, hard look at him next year.
3. Looking at the WPIAL title games this Friday at Heinz Field, you get the feeling that it could be deja vu all over again. That's a good thing if you are a Clairton Bear or an Aliquippa Quip because that means you have a shot at repeating as champions. But if you are a fan of Gateway or Greensburg Central Catholic, you are hoping history doesn't repeat itself. Those two teams have had multiple opportunities to win titles in the last few years and have come up empty. And in Gateway's case, the Gators once again find themselves as the favorites. Will this be the year they finally get that first title since 1986? Only time will tell. But it won't be easy, as George Novak has Woodland Hills playing at the top of its games after a couple of down years. For Greensburg CC, on the other hand, the pressure won't be on them. Most expect Aliquippa to win, but GCC was ranked first in the state by the Harrisburg Patriot News early in the season for a reason. The Centurions have a lot of talent, and they aren't going to be an easy out for Aliquippa.