After being left out last season, Seneca Valley aims to return to Class 6A playoffs

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Monday, August 7, 2023 | 7:45 PM


Editor’s note: Starting today, Trib HSSN will preview one WPIAL conference per day until the start of high school football season Aug. 25.

Last fall, Seneca Valley was sitting at 1-1 in Class 6A and 6-2 overall heading into Week 8. Two wins and the Raiders would earn at least a share of the 6A crown and secure the No. 1 seed heading into the postseason.

Those victories never came.

Instead of earning a conference banner and entering the district playoffs as the team to beat, backing up their lofty expectations at the start of the season, the Raiders lost a pair of heartbreakers.

Seneca Valley fell to Central Catholic in Week 8, 28-25, and then saw its season end before November after being edged 27-26 by eventual champion North Allegheny in Week 9.

The senior-laden Raiders were the only Class 6A team not to reach the postseason.

“I think we were all disappointed, top to bottom,” Seneca Valley coach Ron Butschle said. “We had a very talented team, and we came up short in some crucial situations. Losing in Week 3 to Canon-Mac put us in a bind, and playing tight games is meaningless if you don’t find a way to win them the rest of the way in conference play.”

This will definitely be a transitional year for Seneca Valley.

Not only do the Raiders have only three starters back on offense and two returning on defense, they have had changes on the coaching staff, including offensive coordinator Ryan Lehmeier leaving to take the head coaching position at Central Catholic.

“This has been a tight group of players all offseason,” Butschle said. “We have done some things to intentionally teach leadership and being great teammates. I am excited to see how it pays off. I am also excited to see how this new staff comes together.”

Among the many starters who graduated from last year’s team is quarterback Graham Hancox. The two-year starter threw for more than 3,000 yards the last two seasons.

His replacement will be senior Sean O’Shea. While this will be his first year as the Raiders starting quarterback, he does have some experience. O’Shea started four games as a sophomore in 2021 when Hancox was injured and completed 45 of 80 passes for 548 yards and five touchdowns.

“I am excited because Sean O’Shea has both experience and a tremendous ability to run and throw,” Butschle said. “We have some really skilled playmakers in the backfield and perimeter. We will find some creative ways to get our best players the ball.”

Some of those skilled playmakers include senior Kai West, a threat at running back, defensive back and kick returner. He averaged more than 9 yards per carry and was the team’s second leading rusher with 306 yards and five touchdowns.

Junior Jayden Price is a potential Division I corner who will play wide receiver this year too. Senior Amari Henson is a two-year starter at wide receiver and was the Raiders’ second leading receiver with 29 catches for 294 yards.

Leading the way on an inexperienced line for Seneca Valley will be senior Roam Royal, a 6-foot-5, 300-pound two-way starter.

While the unknown and new challenges are exciting, the overall inexperience is a concern for Butschle and his staff.

While they might not be alone in the youth and lack of experience, the chase for 6A gold will be very competitive, much like it was a year ago.

“Every team will be very senior-heavy and talented,” Butschle said. “I think we and Mt. Lebanon are probably the least senior-heavy squads. The talent is always there on every team.”

Seneca Valley

Coach: Ron Butschle

2022 record: 6-4, 1-3 in Class 6A

All-time record: 269-306-11

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.25, at Penn Hills, 7

9.1, at Peters Township, 7

9.8, at Canon-McMillan*, 7

9.15, Pine-Richland, 7:30

9.22, Mt. Lebanon*, 7

9.29, Butler, 7

10.6, Hempfield, 7

10.13, at North Hills, 7

10.20, at Central Catholic*, 7^

10.27, North Allegheny*, 7

*Conference game

^At Gateway

STAT LEADERS

Passing: Graham Hancox*

151-270, 1,985 yards, 20 TDs

Rushing: Wyatt Craver*

116-567 yards, 5 TDs

Receiving: Luke Lawson*

55-627 yards, 11 TDs

*Graduated

FAST FACTS

• Ron Butschle begins his seventh season in his second stint as head coach at Seneca Valley. He also coached the Raiders from 2004-08.

• Since expanding to six classifications in 2016, Seneca Valley had never lost to Canon-McMillan, until last year. In the last eight years, the Raiders are now 4-1 in 6A games against the Big Macs. Seneca Valley is now a combined 7-19 against its other three current 6A rivals, including 3-4 vs. Mt. Lebanon, 3-6 against North Allegheny and 1-9 when facing Central Catholic.

• Five years ago, the Raiders played in their most recent WPIAL football championship game. Seneca Valley turned the ball over five times and lost to Pine-Richland in the 2018 6A finals, 34-7. SV is 0-3 all-time in WPIAL football title games, having lost to Central Catholic in the first 6A championship game in 2016, 42-7, and falling to Aliquippa in the 1989 Class AAA finals, 17-9.

• This is the 59th season of Seneca Valley football, including preceding schools in the district.

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