5 things to watch at WCCA 7-on-7 football tournament

Wednesday, July 17, 2019 | 7:14 PM

The ninth Westmoreland County Coaches Association seven-on-seven passing tournament will be Thursday at Latrobe’s Rossi and Graham-Sobota fields on the high school campus.

The competition begins at 9 a.m. with the championship game — between the winners of two divisions — set to begin around 2:15 p.m.

A record 16 teams will compete for the title.

1. Greensburg Central Catholic players have been held in suspense all summer. First-year coach Bret Colbert has not run any plays with his team and has not gone over X’s and O’s yet, but he finally will reveal some semblance of a game plan Thursday.

The Centurions have not played in a seven-on-seven yet this offseason so the WCCA event will mark their first live action against another opponent.

“Right now, we’re all about fundamentals,” Colbert said. “If you don’t know how to line up properly yet, what’s the use of running plays? We’ll get there. Some of what we do will be carried over from last year.”

2. Penn-Trafford is the returning champion, and the Warriors have several key skill players returning, including senior quarterback Gabe Dunlap, senior running back Caleb Lisbon and junior quarterback/receiver Ethan Carr.

The Warriors, who also boast athleticism in the defensive secondary, could give snaps to both Dunlap and Carr under center — a game plan that could carry over into the season.

Penn-Trafford has won five WCCA passing titles.

3. Norwin features strong-armed senior quarterback Jack Salopek, who has verbally committed to Western Michigan. Salopek is trying to establish chemistry with some new receivers with the departure of wideouts Gianni Rizzo and Billy Kerston, and if he can get into a rhythm with pass-catchers, the Knights could contend for the title.

4. A theme among many of the teams in the competition is turnover at quarterback.

More than half the field — Greensburg Central Catholic, Mt. Pleasant, Jeannette, Franklin Regional, Burrell, Kiski Area, Valley, Yough and Monessen — will have new passers this season.

In turn, Norwin (Jack Salopek), Penn-Trafford (Gabe Dunlap), Hempfield (Blake Remaley), Latrobe (Branden Crosby), Southmoreland (Zach Cernuto), Greensburg Salem (Trent Patrick) and Derry (Paul Koontz) all have returnees under center.

Monessen has to replace dual-threat sophomore standout Devin Whitlock, who transferred to Belle Vernon.

5. Southmoreland is a sleeper to watch. The Scotties could have one of the most prolific pass-and-catch combinations in the WPIAL come the fall, with sophomore Cernuto and athletic senior receiver Riley Comforti. If more targets can emerge for Cernuto, the Scotties could be in the mix Thursday.

Extra points: There is no make-up date at this point should rain or storms interfere with the competition, which is played on three turf fields. … Other playmakers to watch include Jeannette’s Jackson Pruitt, Gamal Marballie of Yough, Justin Huss of Derry, and Ryan Thomas of Greensburg Salem. … Hempfield won back-to-back titles in 2016 and ’17.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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