NORTH STRABANE, Pennsylvania — Upper St Clair qualified for the WPIAL Class-5A Championship game on Friday night thanks to a punishing running attack led by Jamaal Brown.
The Panthers 10-2 earned a big 17-7 victory Friday night over Bethel Park, avenging their 27-14 loss on Oct. 7 at home.
In rainy conditions, Brown rushed for 135 yards and scored a touchdown that came on a double backhand on a play I used to run in Madden NFL 2004. Anyway, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound running back took over. game in the second half. On the drive that led to a 22-yard field goal by Bennett Henderson, Brown ran the ball 80 yards on nine carries. Brown and Upper St. Clair accomplished that feat without the services of Aiden Conn, who was injured in the match, and his status is in doubt for the Class 5A championship on Saturday against Pine Richland.
Last season, Brown had 328 yards on 61 carries. This year, the 5-foot-11, 210-pound fullback has rushed 164 times for 1,336 yards, second in the WPIAL-5A class behind Ryan Palmieri of Pine-Richland, but at higher yards per carry. Brown credited his coaching staff’s off-season strength and conditioning program for his improvement as a senior in 2022.
Brown spoke to Pittsburgh Sports Now after Friday night’s game to talk about his return to Norwin, his recruiting process, the team’s goals for the rest of the season and how he’s improved over the offseason.
“During the offseason, I don’t think we worked like we did this season this year, and I give the coaches credit for that, and I got bigger and stronger for the season,” he said. Brown said.
Brown was initially unsure early in his career if he would be drafted as a running back or if he would be drafted to play defense. But with his 2022 breakout, that seems settled.
“Running back for sure,” Brown said. “Early in my career, I didn’t know if I was going to be drafted as a defensive back or a linebacker, but I get drafted as a running back, and the schools want me as a running back.”
Brown has received offers from Army, Alabama-Birmingham, Albany, Bryant, Fordham, Georgetown, Indiana State, Lehigh, Monmouth, Navy, Richmond, Robert Morris, St. Francis, Stony Brook and Youngstown State. He always takes his time making a decision in college, despite signing day being only six weeks away.
“Richmond, Navy, they’re top of the list, and they’ve shown a lot of love for sure,” Brown said. “I know a lot of coaches are angry that I haven’t made a decision, but it seems like with every game that passes I focus more on our team and haven’t reviewed yet. college affairs. We are trying to win the WPIAL championships.
In that regard, Upper St. Clair will travel to Norwin High School to take on Pine-Richland in the WPIAL Class-5A title match next Saturday. USC started their road season in a game against Norwin in a game they won 42-6. Brown said it was motivation for the team to end the WPIAL season where it started.
“Our goal for this season was to get back to Norwin,” Brown said. “We played there the first season and wanted to play there to get a taste and we’re going back to Norwin, and here we are at the end of the season, and we’re going back to Norwin.”