2021 City League preview: Westinghouse chasing 3-peat but elite talent is everywhere
Thursday, August 26, 2021 | 5:42 PM
Some of the top football prospects in Western Pa. will display their talents on the Cupples Stadium turf this season, and plenty of eyes will be on the City League.
Perry’s Tyreese Fearbry and Brashear’s Ta’Mere Robinson are highly regarded four-star prospects, but many other elite players are set to make their mark this season.
Competition is expected to be stiff again between the five City League teams — Allderdice, Brashear, Perry Traditional Academy, University Prep and Westinghouse. Carrick will be playing as an independent for the third straight season.
Westinghouse is the two-time defending champion after finishing 7-0 overall and 4-0 in league play last season, defeating Allderdice, 36-30, in the City League championship game.
Here’s a look at each of the teams:
The Dragons won the City League title in 2017 and ’18 and have reached the championship game six times in the past eight years. With four all-City players returning, along with a bevy of veteran starters, coach Jerry Haslett certainly wants that tradition to continue.
“Our goals are always the same,” he said. “We try to win the City and win some state playoff games and hopefully a championship. Obviously, that’s really, really difficult, especially in 6A and especially for a City school.”
Allderdice will be led by some talented, and large, players along the line.
Senior defensive tackle George Benjamin (6-5, 360) returns after earning all-league recognition last season.
“Big George. They call him Grizzly Bear. He’s grizzly bear-sized,” Haslett said. “He’s hard to stop with two people. We just have to have the other guys around him making plays when he’s occupying two people.”
Senior guard Micah Brown, another all-City player, anchors the offensive line with senior Dandre Wells. Senior tight end/linebacker Robert Brown and senior defensive back Noah Johnston also return after earning all-league honors last season.
Junior Jaerone Parker will start at quarterback, with junior Hasaun Marshall and sophomore Terrell James being his top targets in the passing game. Johnston and junior Naeron Smith should help in the backfield.
The Dragons will be tested early with nonconference games at North Allegheny, Oak Glenn, W.Va., and Altoona before starting league play with two-time defending champion Westinghouse.
“Competing against the better teams makes you better,” Haslett said. “That’s why we go (on the road) for the first three.
“Hopefully, when we come back in City League play, we’re a better team because of it.”
Coach: Jerry Haslett
2020 record: 4-2, 3-1 in City League
All-time record: 304-456-64
Date, Opponent, Time
8.27, at North Allegheny, 7:30
9.3, at Oak Glen, W.Va., 7
9.10, at Altoona, 7
9.16, at Westinghouse*, 7
9.23, University Prep*, 7
10.1, at Perry*, 7
10.8, at Steubenville, Ohio, 7
10.14, Brashear*, 7
A trio of Division I prospects return to lead Brashear, but the Bulls will rely on depth across the board to improve on a 1-3 mark in league play.
Junior Ta’Mere Robinson is a major Division I prospect in the secondary, with offers from Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State, Syracuse, Rutgers, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Maryland, Toledo and William & Mary.
A member of the Trib HSSN Preseason All-Star Team and a four-star recruit by Rivals ranked among the top 100 juniors in the nation, he also will likely be playing quarterback and roaming the defense at linebacker and safety.
“We want to move him around and not keep him stuck in one position so teams can’t avoid him,” first-year coach Andrew Moore said.
“He understands the game. He’s a student of the game. He can make situations easier for himself and others around him. That way he can allow his athleticism to take over.”
The Bulls also will rely on tight end/linebacker Kameron Cheatom, who holds offers from Akron, Kent State and Toledo. Moore said the 6-foot-3, 225-pound junior has an “ability to provide mismatches with his athleticism.”
Senior safety Kevin Smith, who has a scholarship offer from Toledo, also returns as a fourth-year starter.
Moore also is looking for contributions from senior Daquan Griffin, an explosive athlete who could play quarterback, along with receiver and defensive back. Junior Shawn Solomon and senior Rasheed Saunders also will be key players out of the backfield and at receiver.
Moore will be leaning on senior tackle Aaorn Ford (6-4, 275) to anchor the line on both sides of the ball.
“He can move, plays well in space and is very physical,” Moore said.
Fellow seniors Matt Phillips (6-3, 250) and Josh Bravo (6-3, 250) also return up front.
Coach: Andrew Moore
2020 record: 2-4, 1-3 in City League
All-time record: 259-185-8
Date, Opponent, Time
8.28, St. Vincent Pallotti, Md.^, 1
9.3, at McDowell, 7
9.10, Westinghouse*, 7
9.17, at Erie, 7
9.24, Perry*, 7
10.2, Uniontown, 5
10.8, at University Prep*, 7
10.14, at Allderdice*, 7
Greg Johnston knows it won’t be easy to rebuild Carrick football, but he is optimistic.
The first-year head coach has set goals for his team to turn around a 20-game losing streak that stretches back to 2017.
“We want to build the culture, build the numbers and win some ballgames,” he said. “We want to have one of the more successful seasons that Carrick has had in a long time.”
Carrick started camp with 20 players, including several talented options at the skill positions.
Junior Rashod Woods will start at quarterback and safety.
“He’s a guy I’m leaning on very heavily,” Johnston said. “He’s a smart kid, knows the position, very athletic. I’m leaning on him to be able to do what we need to do offensively and make plays while controlling the clock.”
Senior Laronte Moore will be a primary option at wide receiver, though Johnston said he could also line up at quarterback or running back and also will have a utility role on defense at linebacker, defensive back or defensive end.
“He has a lot of potential across the board,” said Johnston, who added Moore has Division I size and potential.
Junior Brennan Patton-Smothers returns at center to anchor the line and also will play defensive end.
Other defensive playmakers include Tyrone Beasley, a transfer from Texas who Johnston said has a Division I skillset at cornerback and also will play wide receiver, return kicks and be the team’s punter.
“He’s a guy you don’t really want to throw on too often because it’s not going to end well for you,” Johnston said.
Johnston also said the team will rely on some young linebackers.
“We want to be successful. We want to win some games. That’s where the disconnect has been with the community,” Johnston said. “It’s been so long since they won games. People are disheartened by the words Carrick football. We need to start by winning games.”
Carrick will again play an independent schedule, which includes a game against City League rival Perry.
Coach: Greg Johnston
2020 record: 0-5
All-time record: 330-461-47
Date, Opponent, Time
8.28, at Steubenville Catholic Central, Ohio, 7
9.3, at Madonna, W.Va., 7
9.10, at Uniontown, 7
9.17, at South Side, 7
9.24, at Ligonier Valley, 7
10.7, Perry, 7
10.15, Uniontown, 3:30
Darnell “Pepsi” Farrow was a key member of Perry’s 1989 PIAA football championship team.
Now, as coach of the Commodores, he wants his players to experience that same winning feeling.
“Perry wants to get back to playing Perry football, nothing short,” Farrow said. “Our vision has always been being in that state championship in December.
“We want to compete for championships. That’s what these kids want.”
After going 0-4 in league play last fall, Perry has pieces in place to rebound in a big way.
Leading the way will be senior defensive end Tyreese Fearbry, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound defensive end and one of the state’s top prospects. He committed to Penn State earlier this summer but reopened his recruitment in July. The four-star prospect has offers from Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia, Arizona State, Auburn, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Miami, Michigan State, Syracuse, Tennessee, Wisconsin and others. He also holds an invitation to the 2022 Under Armor All-American Game.
“One part of it is motor, his drive to get better. He’s determined to win,” Farrow said of Fearbry’s strengths. “It helped him with his leadership. I truly believe he found his niche. He grew in certain areas.”
Fearbry also will play wide receiver on offense as Perry tries to maximize his skills and create mismatches.
Sophomore Ahmad Arrington will move from receiver to quarterback this season, and senior Nate Cutler is also competing for time. Both can move to the slot. Also at wide receiver, Farrow expects contributions from juniors C.J. Simpkins and Tahron Henderson.
Sophomore Zyan Howard will get most of the carries in the backfield, and senior Kareem Adams will move from offensive line to tight end/H-back to get more involved in the offensive attack.
Senior Santana Kyzer, a fourth-year starter, returns to anchor the offensive line.
Coach: Darnell Farrow
2020 record: 1-4, 0-4 in City League
All-time record: 461-354-48
Date, Opponent, Time
9.2, Uniontown, 7
9.10, Southmoreland, 7
9.17, at University Prep*, 7
9.24, at Brashear*, 7
10.1, Allderdice*, 7
10.7, at Carrick, 7
10.15, Westinghouse*, 7
University Prep was in the thick of the City League hunt last season. Close losses to Allderdice in the regular season and playoffs, as well as a shutout loss to Westinghouse and a consolation game defeat against Brashear ultimately led to a 2-4 record.
But the Panthers were a few plays away from being 5-1.
Coach Lou Berry hopes his returning players can use that experience to turn those games into victories.
“In our program, our goal every season is to win the City League championship,” Berry said. “Nothing has changed there. Once we move into the state playoffs, it’s all about believing we can make it to Hershey. We’ll take it one week at a time.”
Akron recruit Rashan Murray will lead the way this season. The senior wide receiver/defensive back is one of the City’s top returning playmakers on both sides of the ball.
“Rashan is a very skilled, tremendous athlete,” Berry said. “We’ll go into stadiums this season knowing we have perhaps the best player on the field. That’s a bold statement, but it’s what his coaches and teammates feel about him.”
The Panthers also will rely on sophomore Amare Gee at wide receiver and in the defensive backfield.
“He’s definitely going to take on a much bigger role this season defensively,” Berry said. “We expect him to grow from his freshman season. Now, we expect him to pretty much erase one side of the field as a lockdown corner.”
Senior Keon Smalls will line up at quarterback, with sophomore Paul Helvy and junior Terrell Allen-Tooks in the backfield. Senior Rashad Murray and junior Amir McCloud also will be at wide receiver.
Up front, University Prep will be anchored by junior Robert Arms (6-0, 250), a three-year starter, as well as junior Jaeden Anderson on the defensive side of the ball.
Senior defensive end Nasir Crownie and Allen-Tooks also should be impact players on defense.
Coach: Lou Berry
2020 record: 2-4, 2-2 in City League
All-time record: 60-40
Date, Opponent, Time
8.27, at Highlands, 7
9.3, at Sharon, 7
9.10, at Steubenville, Ohio, 7
9.17, Perry*, 7
9.23, at Allderdice*, 7
9.30, at Westinghouse*, 7
10.8, Brashear*, 7
10.15, at Farrell, 7
The Bulldogs have won the past two City League championships, and with five All-City League players returning, they have the look of a team ready to defend the title.
Coach Donta Green’s team has a lot of returning skill players and a veteran group of linemen who led the team to a 7-0 mark a year ago.
“We want to take it one game at a time, be healthy and play the best brand of football we can play,” said Green, who is entering his third season as head coach.
Junior quarterback Keyshawn Morsillo returns under center after earning all-league honors last season. Green said he’s worked to get bigger, stronger and become more of a leader in the huddle.
“The biggest thing for him was the mental part of the game,” Green said. “He’s demonstrated that (improvement) over the last four to five months. He can make every throw on the football field, has a tremendous arm. He’s becoming a really great leader and embracing the leadership role.”
Senior running back Malik Harris returns to the backfield after rushing for seven scores and earning all-league recognition. Green expects a lot from senior wide receiver Jai’Ron King, who also will play cornerback and will step in for graduate Darius Bruce, who was an all-around performer last season.
“Just a natural born leader. (King) is the pulse of the team,” Green said. “The competition level is at an all-time high. He’s gonna fill a lot of Darius Bruce’s shoes.”
Junior Sincere Smith also will be a key weapon at wide receiver.
Four offensive linemen return for the Bulldogs, including senior center Keylen Kenney and senior guard Mark Butler, who were all-league selections. Sophomores Mike Harvey and Ramon Poindexter also return.
“They did really well last year without having a camp and offseason,” Green said. “We’re really looking forward for them coming together and being a force.”
Impact players on defense include junior linebackers Khalil Taylor and Roderick Jeter, senior defensive end Darryl Perkins, junior defensive tackle Donte Taylor and senior Davon Fennel at safety.
“We have a slew of guys looking to make plays on the defensive side of the ball,” Green said.
Coach: Donta Green
2020 record: 7-0, 4-0 in City League
All-time record: 585-331-40
Date, Opponent, Time
8.28, at Seton LaSalle^, 7
9.3, Kirtland, Ohio, 7
9.10, at Brashear*, 7
9.16, Allderdice*, 7
9.24, at Union Local, Ohio, 7:30
9.30, University Prep*, 7
10.8, at Butler, 7
10.15, at Perry*, 7
^At Dormont Stadium
Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BHartlep_Trib.