PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Pitt fans were introduced to Jack Salopek back in June when head coach Pat Narduzzi extended an offer to the Norwin quarterback.
As a sophomore, Salopek threw for more than 1,800 yards and eight touchdowns while leading the Knights to the PIAA playoffs. With Pine-Richland’s Phil Jurkovec now at Notre Dame, the title for best signal caller in the WPIAL is up grabs, and Salopek might be the front-runner after his performance in his team’s 44-36 Week Zero victory over Penn Trafford.
The junior threw for 283 yards and four touchdowns while leading the Knights to their first win over the Warriors since 2010. He tossed scoring passes of 78, 25, 39 and 32 yards, but his best play might have come on the ground, though.
Norwin raced out to a 24-0 lead, but Penn Trafford rallied in the second half, cutting the deficit to 30-28. Facing a 4th and 1 situation, Salopek called his own number and sprinted for a 29-yard touchdown. The Knights tacked on two more scores to put the game away for good.
“His touchdown run in the fourth quarter on 4th and 1 was one of those four to five plays in the game that determine the outcome,” Norwin coach Dave Brozeski told PSN.
Salopek totaled 71 yards on the ground and finished with five total touchdowns. It’s the type of performance that will surely excite Narduzzi and Pitt fans.
Week 0 vs Penn Traffordhttps://t.co/HKmx6SGaKz
— Jack Salopek (@JackSalopek) August 26, 2018
Brozeski completely retooled the Norwin attack in the offseason, brining on coordinator Tim Van Horn to implement a no-huddle, spread offense to take advantage of Salopek’s talents.
“Obviously, you always want to fit your scheme to what you have player-wise that run the scheme,” Brozeski said of the new offense. “It’s a little different in college where you can recruit people to fit them in the scheme that you run. In high school you have to make the adjustments from year to year based on where your strengths lie.”
Under the tutelage of Van Horn and quarterbacks coach Alex Dennison, Salopek has thrived in the new system.
“It’s a quarterback-driven offense and he’s handled it well,” Brozeski said. “He’s worked hard with quarterbacks coach Alex Dennison to understand not just what the play is, but also what we’re trying to accomplish with the play and how to get us out of bad plays.”
Salopek split time at quarterback as a freshman before earning the starting role last year. Brozeski said the biggest difference he has seen in the youngster is his confidence in the pocket.
“Overall, the biggest change is his confidence,” Brozeski said. “Not that he lacked confidence before, but the confidence in decision making and having the overall awareness of the play and the protections and where his reads are and different stuff.”
Brozeski also noted Salpek has physically changed, saying “he’s bigger and stronger than last year.”
Pitt was the first Power 5 conference team to offer a scholarship, but Penn State and West Virginia are actively recruiting the 6-foot-2 quarterback, too. A repeat performance of Friday night, and more major programs will come calling.
Despite making the playoffs each of the last four years, Norwin hasn’t finished with a winning record since 2007. With Salopek leading the charge, the Knights seem poised to snap that streak.
As Brozeksi puts it, “You always have a chance when you have a guy at quarterback like Jack.”