The race for the WPIAL passing title has seen some historic seasons in recent years. In 2018, Sto-Rox junior Eric Wilson became the first player in WPIAL history to throw for over 3000 yards in the regular season. Wilson threw for 3003 yards and 38 TDs in 2019 but was edged by South Fayette’s Naman Alemada by just 6 yards. In the COVID-shortened regular season of 2020, Armstrong sophomore Cadin Olsen exploded for 2000 yards and 23 TDs in just 7 games. In 2021, Olsen finished second behind Gateway’s Brad Birch who put up 2355 yards and 24 TDs in the regular season. Olsen reclaimed the title last year, throwing for 3210 yards and 42 TDs. Last year the top six passers all eclipsed the 2000-yard mark and three return this season. In total, more than half of the top 25 passers from last season are back this year.
Here is a look at the top contenders for the WPIAL passing crown. Players are listed in alphabetical order, not in predicted order of finish. Of note, their passing stats from last year are full season statistics, which include both regular season and playoff outings. Typically the “Passing Champion” is the player with the most regular season yards. Don’t forget to check out our WPIAL Blitz Season Preview Show and bookmark our WPIAL Standings Page for once the season starts!
Brad Birch (Gateway)
2022 Stats: 2018 yards, 19 TDs
Birch led the WPIAL in passing in 2021 after transferring from Jeannette to Gateway. He threw for over 2300 yards in the regular season and finished the year with over 2600 once the playoffs were included. Last year he once again surpassed the 2000-yard mark. Gateway reportedly has installed a new offense this year that focuses more on downfield passing. With Woodland Hills transfer Steve Jenkins at receiver, Birch should be right in the mix for the passing title once again.
Chris Cibrone (Peters Twp)
2022 Stats: 1963 yards, 19 TDs
In an injury-shortened 2022 campaign, Cibrone still put up over 1900 yards and 19 TDs. Five of his top six receivers return as Peters Twp looks to make a run at the 5A Allegheny Six title. Peters operates a wide open offense and has had quarterbacks put up big numbers in the past. With all of the experience returning at receiver, a healthy Cibrone could put up some massive numbers this season.
Mike Evans (Canon-McMillan)
2022 Stats: 1448 yards, 18 TDs
Injuries shortened Evans’ 2022 season but he is going to have to put up some big numbers this year if Canon-Mac is going to contend in 6A. The Big Macs have one of their most talented teams in years, including Kaeden Singleton who is being recruited for his defensive prowess but will also be a target for Evans in the passing game.
Quentin Goode (Aliquippa)
2022 Stats: 1935 yards, 23 TDs
The Quips have reached the State Championship Game in each of the last two seasons. Goode has thrown for over 1900 yards both years and a combined 40 TDs. He will have the benefit of throwing the ball to D1-caliber athletes on the outside including Brandon Banks, Arison Walker, and DeMarkus Walker. While the Quips do have a strong running game, they have utilized the “Air Warfield” offense to throw the ball around when the opportunity arises.
Eric Kasperowicz Jr (Mars)
2022 Stats: 1353 yards, 13 TDs
Eric Kasperowicz Sr was hired as the head coach at Mars last summer, bringing his open passing attack to a Fighting Planets team that had traditionally been extremely run-oriented. With Eric Kasperowicz Jr at the helm, and while learning a brand new offensive system, Mars went from the bottom of the conference to a playoff team. Now, with another full offseason under their belts, Mars should be even better. The Planets return their top two receivers from last season, which is a recipe for an offensive boom.
Kadin Keefer (Southmoreland)
2022 Stats: 1586 yards, 18 TDs
The Keefer-to-Keffer connection at Southmoreland was one of the best in the WPIAL last season. Leading receiver Ty Keffer, who also returns this year, led the WPIAL in receptions and put up over 1000 yards. With that combination coming back, and Southmoreland being right in the mix for a playoff spot, expect Keefer to have plenty of opportunities to throw the ball.
Codi Mullen (Knoch)
2022 Stats: 1660 yards, 10 TDs
Seeing a Knoch player on this list might be a bit of a surprise. However, the Knights return two of Mullen’s top three receivers. Despite going 1-9 last year, four of their losses were by less than 10 points which gives Knoch some upside heading into this year. Mullen was only a sophomore last year and as a rising junior should take another step forward in their passing game. Knoch’s defense was bad last year which led to a number of high-scoring shootouts.
Kole Olszewski (Bishop Canevin)
2022 Stats: 1503 yards, 16 TDs
After splitting time at quarterback the last two seasons with Jason Cross, the job now belongs solely to Olszewski. Cross, a WVU recruit, will move out to receiver to take advantage of his athleticism. Canevin is loaded all over the field and is not afraid to throw the ball. Olszewski has a big arm and now that he will be playing the position full-time should increase his opportunities for yardage. Last year the two Canevin QBs combined for over 2800 yards and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Olszewski threaten the 3000 mark if Canevin makes another deep run in the playoffs.
Keegan Smetanka (Shaler)
2022 Stats: 2113 yards, 31 TDs
It is unfortunate for Shaler that they play in one of the toughest conferences in the WPIAL in a year where the 5A playoff race is incredibly limited. In any other year, this Shaler team would be a threat not only to make the playoffs but potentially win a playoff game. But with only 2 teams per conference guaranteed a playoff spot (plus two third-place wild cards) it will be an extremely difficult path just to qualify. That said they certainly have the offensive talent to do it with Smetanka at QB and leading receivers Joe DeSabato and Kaden Orga both returning.
Payton Wehner (Central Catholic)
2022 Stats: 2504 yards, 17 TDs
Wehner finished the 2022 season as the WPIAL’s second-leading passer. The biggest change will be his offense, going from Terry Totten’s run-heavy approach to Ryan Lehmeier’s pass-oriented system. Lehmeier was the offensive coordinator at Seneca Valley the last few season and oversaw the expansion of their passing attack. Now at Central, with Wehner at quarterback and a bevy of D1 talent around him, this offense could be absolutely deadly. Wehner’s top three receivers all return, led by Penn State-commit Peter Gonzalez (son of former Pitt and Steelers QB Pete Gonzalez).
Others to Watch
Derek Burk (Deer Lakes) – Burk is entering his final season at Deer Lakes and is looking to take the Lancers program to new heights. Deer Lakes also returns their top two receivers to give Burk experienced targets in the passing attack.
Julian Dugger (Penn Hills) – Dugger, a Pitt commit, is entering his fourth year at the helm of the Penn Hills offense. He has improved each year since being thrown in as a freshman starter. After a semifinal run in 2021, Penn Hills missed the playoffs last year but returns three talented receivers.
Brody Evans (Thomas Jefferson) – Evans was one of the top passers in the WPIAL last year, putting up nearly 2000 yards. However, he has been battling in camp with Luke Kosko who sat out last year after transferring from Seton LaSalle. Assuming Evans wins the job, he has a D1 talent in Sean Sullivan to throw to, he will be right among the top QBs in the WPIAL.
Jaydin Floyd (Leechburg) – With Braylan Lovelace’s decorated high school career ending and him heading off to Pitt, Leechburg will likely turn to their passing game in order to stay in playoff contention. Floyd threw for over 1300 yards and 17 TDs last season. Those numbers should increase as Leechburg opens up the offense more.
Jake Layhue (California) – California is not typically thought of as a passing team, but Layhue challenged for the 1000/1000 club last season and should make a push for it again. Overall, Layhue threw for over 1200 yards and 14 TDs and the Trojans return a number of playmakers this season.
Tanner Pfeuffer (Bethel Park) – Bethel Park is not traditionally known as a passing powerhouse, but junior QB Tanner Pfeuffer threw for 1507 yards and 14 TDs last season. He returns top offensive playmaker Ryan Petras who is a threat in both the running and receiving game.
Matt Sieg (Fort Cherry) – Sieg burst onto the scene last year and became the first freshman to ever pass and rush for 1000 yards in the same season. After throwing for 1200 yards and 11 TDs, Sieg’s top receivers return as Fort Cherry looks to make noise in 1A.
Quadir Stribling (Serra Catholic) – Stribling split time at quarterback last season but takes over duties full-time this year. Serra’s dual-QB system accounted for over 2600 passing yards with Stribling accounting for over 1400 of them. The Eagles did graduate some talented receivers, including Amire Spencer who led the WPIAL in receiving yards.
Tyree Turner (GCC) – Turner returns to lead the GCC offense after throwing for over 1600 yards and 21 TDs. His leading receiver Samir Crosby is also back, giving him a reliable target. GCC saw some departures at running back so look for the Centurions to focus more on the passing game with Turner’s experience.