After making statement last season, McKeesport back for more in Class 4A
Thursday, August 26, 2021 | 5:01 PM
McKeesport coach Matt Miller believes his team sent a message in its return to Class 4A last season.
Battling in the ultra-competitive Big Eight Conference with the likes of Belle Vernon and Thomas Jefferson, the Tigers posted a 6-2 overall mark, including a 5-1 record in conference action.
McKeesport began its season with a shutout loss to BVA before rattling off six straight wins, one of which came in the regular-season finale against the defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Jaguars.
Despite seeing the season come to an end with a quarterfinal loss to Plum in the WPIAL playoffs, Miller was pleased with what his team accomplished.
“We always feel like we can compete with anybody,” he said. “It’s not even always just about wins. It’s about us feeling confident that we can come in and be a tough opponent for anybody to play.”
Entering the new campaign, the Tigers are optimistic and eager to get things started back in the Big Eight.
McKeesport will have to replace some key players, including quarterback-running back Terrance Glenn and offensive linemen Colin Lyons and David Stephenson. On defense, Lyons is among the key departures in addition to linebackers Devontae Hampton and Aundre Robinson and defensive back Asaad Robinson.
All six players were all-conference selections last season. Lyons was picked on both sides of the ball and was voted defensive player of the year.
“It’s going to be hard to replace those guys,” Miller said. “All six made huge contributions for us.”
To replace Glenn’s production, Miller will turn to senior Caleb Reist at quarterback.
While he didn’t begin his junior year as a contributor at quarterback, Reist eased into a role under center after offseason surgery. He thrived and gained valuable experience running the offense once he garnered playing time as the Tigers’ QB1.
“It’s great to have somebody with experience like Caleb,” Miller said. “He’s a smart kid and I expect big things out of him.”
For a team that prides itself on its ability to effectively run its trademark flexbone triple-option offense, McKeesport has a wide variety of talented playmakers in its arsenal.
Senior running back Kanye Thompson will be a factor on the wing, while junior Bobby Boyd will man the fullback position.
Junior Jahmil Perryman could see time in the backfield, while also lining up in the slot. Other receiving options include seniors Dennis Jackson and Amari Fleming and junior Caiden Holtzman.
“We’re always the triple option; that’s who we are and that’s our bread and butter,” Miller said. “We have a lot of skill guys that we want to get the ball to, so we could be in some shotgun sets and things like that.
“But when it comes down to it and when it’s time to make a play, we’re going to be under center in the flexbone triple-option trying to bang out some yards and eat the clock.”
Having lost Lyons and Stephenson to graduation, the Tigers offensive line will rely on the leadership of a pair of returning starters in seniors Tyre Demery and Colin Scharritter.
“We’re really leaning on them a lot because we have guys with good size, but they don’t have a lot of experience,” Miller said. “Demery was recently injured and came back to practice, and the calming effect he had on the offensive line was important for us.”
The other three offensive line positions are up for grabs among a few players, including a pair of seniors who didn’t play their sophomore year in Kahreke Andrews and Terrell Craig. Junior Dimitri Brooks is in the mix as well.
“Football-wise, they’re really only juniors,” Miller said of Andrews and Craig. “Hopefully they’ll be able to contribute for us.”
Defensively, the Tigers’ secondary will be its strength.
It will be led by Boyd at the strong safety/viper position and Perryman at the free safety spot. Thompson and senior Tijour Andrews will return as starters at cornerback.
“Our back end is really strong in coverage,” Miller said. “We were good last year, but I think we’re going to be even better defensively.”
Miller said his linebacker group is really young, but he’s optimistic in what they will bring to the field.
For his Tigers to be successful, Miller points at his line play as being the biggest difference maker.
“If our defensive line plays well, we’ll be a good team,” he said.
Though the Tigers have to fill some voids on both sides of the ball, Miller is confident in the group he has this season.
His optimism has grown exponentially following the offseason work the team has put in.
“I think we’re going to be better than we were last year just because of the time we’ve been able to get out here,” Miller said. “It’s all about doing the work that needs to be done in the preseason to make for a successful season.”
Coach: Matt Miller
2020 record: 6-2, 5-1 in Class 4A Big Eight Conference
All-time record: 666-409-47
Date, Opponent, Time
8.27 Baldwin, 7
9.3 Woodland Hills, 7
9.10 at Armstrong, 7
9.24 Trinity*, 7
10.1 Ringgold*, 7
10.8 at West Mifflin*, 7
10.15 at Laurel Highlands*, 7
10.22 Thomas Jefferson*, 7
10.29 at Belle Vernon*, 7
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