2022 City League preview: Allderdice aims to defend its title but will be tested
Thursday, August 25, 2022 | 12:01 AM
Competition will again be stiff among City League football teams this fall.
The Dragons have played for the title in four of the past five seasons and seven of the last nine. They again have a team capable of hoisting a championship trophy. Though, talented-laden Westinghouse and upperclassmen-heavy squads at Brashear, Perry and University Prep hope to dethrone ‘Dice.
Fellow City League team Carrick will be playing as an independent for the fourth straight season.
Here’s a look at each of the teams in the City League:
Defending City League champion Allderdice lost five all-league players to graduation, but the cupboard certainly isn’t bare as the Dragons prepare for the start of the 2022 season.
Nine players return on offense, including four of the team’s starting offensive linemen – senior Keyshawn Warren, sophomore Mario Watkins Jr., senior Kivon Currington and senior Amari Jones.
Also back is junior quarterback Azerick Jetter and a trio of talented running backs in seniors Naeron Smith, Terrell James and Hasaun Marshall. Seniors Cornell Weems, Will Coleman and Eugene Hall will be top targets at wide receiver. Coleman won the City track title in the 100 meters in 10.9 seconds last spring.
“They played 11 games last year, which gives us a lot of experience with those guys on offense,” coach Jerry Haslett said. “We’re looking to score some points this year. If we hold on to the football is the main thing.”
Haslett also expects Lukas Stead (6-3, 210) to step in and contribute as a freshman on the offensive line.
Defensively, the Dragons will lean on Watkins to make plays at middle linebacker. He had 15 tackles in the season-opener against North Allegheny last fall.
“He’s a really good player,” Haslett said. “We’re looking for him to plug up the middle.”
Senior Naequan Currington will line up at tackle and will have some young ends alongside him, including freshman DJ Mellix.
Marshall and junior Cordae Weems will be at cornerback with Hall and James at safety. Smith and junior Michael McPherson will be the outside linebackers.
“We’ve got four really tough out-of-conference games, which will help us when we come back into the City,” Haslett said. “We try to make them as uncomfortable as possible in the situations they’re in, especially with these away games where there’s a lot of people in the stands. When they come back to the City, it will be more comfortable for them.”
Coach: Jerry Haslett
2021 record: 4-6, 2-2 in City League
All-time record: 308-462-64
Date, Opponent, Time
8.26 at North Allegheny, 7:30
9.2 at Altoona, 7
9.9 at Dover (Ohio), 7
9.16 Perry*, 3:30
9.22 Westinghouse*, 7
9.29 at Brashear*, 7
10.7 at Steubenville (Ohio), 7
10.14 at University Prep*, 7
The Bulls will look to the top-rated player in the state for leadership, but he might not play a snap. Senior linebacker Ta’Mere Robinson is a Penn State recruit ranked No. 1 in Pennsylvania and just out of the top 10 nationally, but he suffered a knee injury late in 2021 and is still recovering.
Coach Andrew Moore said Robinson will be a team leader for the Bulls, but they won’t rush him back into the lineup.
“Our goal is to get him healthy but then also do what we can to make him a better football player and prepare him for Penn State,” Moore said of the Trib HSSN preseason all-star. “Unless he is absolutely 100%, he won’t play a down for us. We want him to be healthy because he has a bright future. We want to err on the side of caution.”
Robinson isn’t the only Division I prospect on the Bulls roster. Senior wide receiver/linebacker Kameron Cheatom is an Akron recruit who will be a key factor on both sides of the ball.
“We’re expecting him to be a reliable guy out on the perimeter as a receiver so teams can’t load the box and try and stop Shawn (Solomon),” Moore said. “We also expect him to make some splash plays for us. Defensively, we’re going to expect him to be the heart and soul of the defense. With his athleticism, we expect him to fly all over the field and use that to his advantage and bail us out from time to time.”
Solomon, a senior, also returns at running back to help pace the offensive attack.
“He’s gotten so much better this past year,” Moore said. “We’re expecting a huge year out of him. We’re going to run the offense through him.”
Brashear was hit hard by graduation with 19 players departing. The Bulls, though, have a strong senior class and an influx of underclassmen to bolster the roster.
Junior Donovan Wetzel will move from receiver to quarterback. Senior Chaemere Snyder will be a key factor at wide receiver. Senior Branden Clark will anchor the offensive line after earning All-City honors last season, along with Cheatom and Robinson.
Defensively, Brashear will lean on Cheatom and Snyder, as well as junior linebacker Sean Peterson and senior defensive lineman Kevin Lowry.
Brashear will open the season at Baldwin on Friday night in a game that has garnered some excitement among the players and coaching staffs.
“Not only do we want to win a City championship, we want to win this newly minted rivalry game with Baldwin, ‘The Battle of 51,’” Moore said. “We got a trophy made for this game, something to get the competitive juices flowing and take some pride in.”
Coach: Andrew Moore
2021 record: 3-5, 2-1 in City League
All-time record: 262-190-8
Date, Opponent, Time
8.26 at Baldwin, 7
9.2 at Wheeling Park (W.Va.), 7
9.9 at Butler, 7
9.16 Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Md.), 7
9.23 at Perry*, 7
9.29 Allderdice*, 7
10.7 University Prep*, 3:30
10.13 at Westinghouse*, 7
Greg Johnston took over the Carrick football team last season and put plans in place to rebuild the Raiders’ culture. Though they finished 0-7, they made strides toward their goals and hope to continue their climb this season.
“I want to honestly see the discipline, see them show their skillsets on the field and see if we can compile that into wins,” Johnston said. “The goal for us right now is to have a full season. We did that last year. We want to be a winning team. We want to play winning football. That might not always come across as wins and losses when you have a roster as small as ours. We think we can put W’s on the scoreboard this year.”
The Raiders offense will look to senior Rashod Woods at quarterback and other skill positions, as well as sophomore Shawn Karioki at wide receiver, senior Zaire Lowery and Michael Davis.
“(Woods) will be one of the main guys who will make an immediate impact and be able to really show what we’ve been doing in the offseason,” Johnston said. “He had a really good 7-on-7 spring season. I’m looking for that to transfer over into football in pads.”
Senior Brenden Patton-Smothers (5-10, 205) will anchor the defense.
“He’s a home run hitter of a tackler for us,” Johnston said. “I wish we had enough linemen that I could use him at linebacker. He’ll play anywhere for us on that front seven and make a play. He can wreak havoc from anywhere on the field.”
Carrick also will lean on sophomore receiver/defensive back Marcus Fields, who Johnston said has taken on a leadership role despite being an underclassman.
Carrick will aim to end a losing streak dating to 2017 when it opens the season Friday at Carlynton.
Coach: Greg Johnston
2021 record: 0-7
All-time record: 330-468-47
Date, Opponent, Time
8.26 at Carlynton, 7
9.2 Albert Gallatin, 7
9.9 Uniontown, 3:30
9.16 at Brownsville, 7
9.23 University Prep, 3:30
9.30 at Steubenville C.C. (Ohio), 7
10.6 Perry, 7
10.14 at Wheeling Central Catholic, 7
10.21 at Trinity, 7
10.28 at Uniontown, 7
The Perry Traditional Academy football team is under new leadership this year, kind of.
Coach Stephen Hale is the newly appointed head coach, though he has been an assistant with the program the past several years and, as a 1995 graduate, is well versed on the history and past success of Perry football.
“Our group knows us. We’ve been with them since they were freshmen,” Hale said. “We are junior and senior dominated. They know us. They know me. The transition was seamless. We now are working on the discipline.”
Hale will lead an experienced group, especially at the skill positions.
Now in his third season with the Commodores, junior Ahmad Arrington (5-9, 155) will be under center.
“He is what you would call an athlete,” Hale said. “Multi-task, multi-tool. He can run. For his size, his passing arm is not bad. He’s short, but he throws a lot bigger than what he is. He can play receiver, running back. He can even punt a little bit. He’s an all-around athlete.”
Fellow junior Julian Walker has moved from the line to running back, where he hopes to transfer his strength in the weight room into tough yards between the tackles.
Senior Daiquon Boleky will create matchup problems at tight end, and junior Taymir Smalls will be a key factor at wide receiver.
Hale also expects contributions from Tahron Henderson, Stephen Hale Jr. and Damon Gilmore, who are all experienced upperclassmen.
“They’ve seen the bad days and are preparing to have good ones,” Hale said.
Hale also expects at breakout year for junior tackle Alvin Johnson (6-4, 305), who has “long arms, long legs, can move and plays basketball, so he has quick feet.”
Defensively, Perry will lean on senior safety Terry Booth to be the quarterback of the unit. Senior Manny Williams will anchor the linebacking corps, and Boleky and Gilmore will be a strong point at the defensive end positions.
“First goal is to get everybody to show up, discipline,” Hale said. “If you want to play with our team on our field, you show up. You’ll be held accountable for your actions. You’ll hold yourself accountable and hold your team accountable.
“We want to win the small battles because the small battles become big wars we can win. Our goal is to get better in everything we do. The mistakes you made previously, eliminate those. The ultimate goal is a championship. Those discipline goals and winning the small battles will lead to the championships.”
Perry will open the season against Seton LaSalle in a nonconference game at 7 p.m. Saturday at Dormont Stadium.
Coach: Stephen Hale
2021 record: 2-5, 0-4 in City League
All-time record: 463-359-48
Date, Opponent, Time
8.28 at Seton LaSalle, 7
9.2 at Harrison Central (Ohio), 7
9.9 at Westinghouse*, 7
9.16 at Allderdice*, 3:30
9.23 Brashear*, 7
9.30 University Prep*, 7
10.6 at Carrick, 7
University Prep made a habit of hoisting the City League trophy in the program’s infancy. Three titles and five trips to the finals in the first 10 years made the Panthers a team to beat each season. Their last title, however, came in 2016, which doesn’t sit well with coach longtime coach Lou Berry.
“We want to get back to our winning ways, playing good, sound, fundamental football,” Berry said. “It’s time for us to move away from shooting ourselves in the foot with undisciplined football when it comes to failed assignments, penalties, turnovers. We want to turn the corner in that area. We just want to get back to our winning ways and look to go 1-0 every week. We need to get back to doing the little things correctly before we look at long term goals.”
University Prep finished fourth in the City League last season and expects to be in the playoff hunt again in 2022.
Helping to guide the way are a pair of returning all-league players — junior wide receiver Daniel Cain and senior linebacker Tarell Allen-Tooks. Tooks will be the team’s mike linebacker and get carries in the backfield, while Cain will be a slot receiver.
Senior Davin Griffin will be another key two-way player will was a standout at strong safety last year and also will use his speed as a slot receiver.
Junior Max Qureshi will be taking snaps behind center after playing junior varsity last season.
“He’s coming in pretty raw, probably no more than five varsity snaps in his career,” Berry said. “He’s injected a lot of positive energy into our program. He’s had a tremendous offseason and looks quite prepared for this season.”
Other impact players on offense include junior receiver Marquis Glass-Jobes, who at 6-foot-4 is a weapon on the outside, and speedy pass-catcher Malik McDougal.
The offensive line will lean on senior Raymar Coleman, a third-year starter at guard who was All-City honorable mention the past two seasons.
“We’re looking for him to bring that stability with our offensive line,” Berry said.
Junior Trevor Weller will be a second-year starter who has seen a lot of varsity snaps on the offensive line.
University Prep’s impact players on defense will line up at defensive tackle. Junior Dante Duncan is an undersized nose guard at 5-11, 170 who shined during a scrimmage against Clairton, Berry said. Lining up next to him is senior tackle Rahmara Terry, who Berry called “probably the best kept secret in Western Pennsylvania.”
“People don’t realize she’s a girl until it’s time to shake hands after the game,” he said. “Not that she doesn’t look like a girl. She’s just that good.”
Coach: Lou Berry
2021 record: 3-6, 1-2 in City League
All-time record: 63-46-0
Date, Opponent, Time
8.26 at Highlands, 7
9.9 at Steubenville (Ohio), 7
9.16 Westinghouse*, 7
9.23 at Carrick, 3:30
9.30 at Perry*, 7
10.7 Brashear*, 3:30
10.14 Allderdice*, 7
Fourth-year coach Dante Green put an emphasis on leadership within the ranks of his Westinghouse football team. The 2020 and ’21 City League champions lost in the championship game to Allderdice last season before winning a pair of state sub-regional games and falling to Farrell in the PIAA Class 2A first round. It was a long run of success built with a talented roster. Green is counting on several leaders to keep the wins coming.
The group includes several senior standouts — linebacker Roderick Jeter, quarterback Keyshawn Morsillo, defensive lineman Donte Taylor, tackle Terrel Searcy and receiver/defensive back Troy Brown, as well as junior receiver Taymir Oneal.
“Having a lot of guys come back and the core of our team being seniors this year, we’re really excited about the leadership they will bring,” Green said.
Many of those same players will be counted on to make an impact on offense and defense.
Morsillo returns behind center after compiling 1,411 passing yards, 733 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns last season.
“Football-wise, he’s always had ‘it.’ He can throw the ball a mile. He can make every throw on the field. He’s knows the offense like the back of his hand,” Green said. “What we are looking for this year is for him to grow mentally and become the leader we know he can. We think he’s going to peak when we need him to.”
Running back Malik Willis graduated after a decorated career. Ready to step in is explosive senior Khalil Taylor, who also proved to be a talented return man, scoring more than five times last season in special teams.
The wide receiver group also returns some weapons with senior Sincere Smith, Oneal and senior Davon Jones, as well as sophomore Lloyd Penn.
The line will feature Searcy, Donte Taylor and senior James Williams, as well as a pair of third-year starters in Raymon Poindexter Michael Harvey.
The top playmakers on defense will include Jeter and junior TyJuane Abram at middle linebacker, Donte Taylor at nose tackle and Khalil Taylor at safety. Green also cited freshman Josiah Collins at defensive end and freshman Keyshawn Robinson at cornerback.
“The goal every year is to win a state championship,” Green said. “For me, we talk about it, it’s winning the games and just not scoring more points. Doing the little things right and paying close attention to detail. Doing your job and playing good football. We’re a pretty talented group and will score more points than a lot of people. I want to see us win football games.”
Coach: Dontae Green
2021 record: 10-2, 4-0 in City League
All-time record: 595-333-40
Date, Opponent, Time
8.27 Clairton, 7
9.2 at Steelton-Highspire, 7
9.9 Perry*, 7
9.15 at University Prep*, 7
9.22 at Allderdice*, 7
10.1 at Kennedy Catholic, 3
10.7 Butler, 7
10.13 Brashear*, 7
Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BHartlep_Trib.
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