NORTH STRABANE, Pa. — Upper St Clair has advanced to the WPIAL Class-5A Championship game on Friday night thanks to a punishing running attack led by Jamaal Brown.
The 10-2 Panthers had a big 17-7 win on Friday night against Bethel Park, avenging their 27-14 loss on Oct 7 loss at home.
In rainy conditions, Brown rushed for 135 yards and scored a touchdown which came on a double-reverse on a play that I used to run in Madden NFL 2004. Anyway, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound running back took over the game in the second half. On the drive that led to a 22-yard field goal by Bennett Henderson, Brown ran the ball for 80 yards on nine carries. Brown and Upper St. Clair accomplished this feat without the services of Aiden Conn, who was injured in the game, and his status is uncertain for the Class-5A championship Saturday against Pine Richland.
Last season, Brown rushed for 328 yards on 61 carries. This year, the 5-foot-11, 210-pound back ran 164 times for 1,336 yards, second in WPIAL Class-5A to Pine-Richland’s Ryan Palmieri, but at a higher yards per carry. Brown credited his coaching staff’s offseason strength and conditioning program for his improvement as a senior in 2022.
Brown spoke to Pittsburgh Sports Now following Friday night’s game to talk about going back to Norwin, his recruiting process, team goals for the rest of the season, and how he got better in the offseason.
“In the offseason, I don’t think we worked as we did this offseason this year, and I give the coaches credit for that, and I got bigger and stronger for the season,” Brown said.
Brown was initially unsure early in his career if he was being recruited as a running back, or if he would be recruited 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 recruited as a defensive back or linebacker, but I am being recruited as a running back, and schools want me as a running back.”
Brown has gotten 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’s still taking his time with making a college decision, despite signing day being just six weeks away.
“Richmond, Navy, they are on top of the list, and they showed a lot of love for sure,” Brown said. “I know a lot of coaches are mad at the fact that I have not made a decision, but it seems like every game that goes by, I am more focused on our team, and I have not looked into the college stuff yet. We are trying to win the WPIAL championships.”
On that regard, Upper St. Clair will head to Norwin High School to face Pine-Richland in the WPIAL Class-5A title game next Saturday. USC started its season on the road in a game against Norwin in a game that they won 42-6. Brown said that was a motivation for the team to finish the WPIAL season where they started.
“Our goal for this season was to head back to Norwin,” Brown said. “We played there the first season and wanted to play there to get a taste and here we are going back to Norwin, and here we are at the end of the season, and we are heading back to Norwin.”