After unforgettable run to WPIAL finals, rebuilding process begins at Moon

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Wednesday, August 10, 2022 | 8:01 AM


Moon is one year removed from a historic run for the program, making its first championship appearance since 1998.

Although Penn-Trafford went on to win the Class 5A title, coach Ryan Linn said the team built a lot of confidence after last year’s run.

“In the 86 years we’ve played football at Moon high school, we’ve been to the championship game twice,” Linn said. “For that group of kids to bring that back to our community and our school, and to experience playing at Heinz, it was a special season.”

Last season, the Tigers finished with a 12-1 record along with an undefeated 5-0 mark in the Allegheny Six Conference.

Moon’s 12-win season was aided by a sizeable senior class. The team loses the majority of its starters on both sides of the ball and now needs to fill in the blanks.

Despite the exodus, the coaches and team are confident in the talent returning. Linn saw a lot of potential from the team during a strong summer and early on in camp.

“It’s been good,” said Linn. “We knew what we’ve had to replace from last season in terms of experience for starters. But as a staff, we’ve really embraced that opportunity to continue to build on the foundation laid already. There’s a lot of good competition. We had a lot of growing pains, but all in all, it’s been a good summer.”

There are a few returning starters from last season who want to help the team grow. Anthony Antoniades, a starter at cornerback and wide receiver, has high hopes.

Antoniades said he and the other returning seniors know they need to put in the effort to help the team grow into their new positions.

“A lot of dedication and effort towards the sport and a lot of leadership needs to be there,” Antoniandes said. “We try. We lost all these guys, but we still have so much talent and depth this year. We can still do it again no matter what.”

Antoniades is the only starter returning on offense, and the team is filling in spots once held by three- and four-year starters. At quarterback, junior Ethan Konieczka and freshmen Andrew Cross and Braeden Stuart are battling.

As for the running game, the Tigers pounded the ball the entire season with a committee of running backs. Linn said that he will keep a similar mentality, using multiple ball carriers — a strategy that has become popular at all levels of football.

Senior Josh Bladel, who ran for 120 yards on just nine carries, and sophomore Nazir Brookins will be the primary backs. Rocco Sinatra, CJ Lindsay, Caden Newhouse, Troy Alexander, Joey Marasco, Antoniandes and Nick Prozzoly will also get carries throughout the season.

Prozzoly, a sophomore wide receiver and safety, is one player Antoniades said is poised to have a breakout season.

Twin brothers Caden and Cole Newhouse also are confident in the team’s ability. The Newhouse twins are seniors this year and both started on defense last season.

Caden believes that the young talent will have no issues stepping up as starters.

“We do have a good, talented and young sophomore and junior class,” Caden said. “It’s really just about getting the experience and once those younger guys are experienced, it’s going to be easy from there.”

Cole said he believes the team will gain chemistry the more they play together.

“We’re taking it one week at a time,” Cole said. “Just knowing what our players like to do and just coming up with a game plan from there.”

The Newhouse twins enjoy playing together and they feel feed off each other’s success.

“We love talking to each other about what we can do to help us better,” Cole said. “We challenge each other and it’s just very fun.”

As for preparing for next season, both Caden and Cole like have what they’ve seen out of the team in 7-on-7 competition.

Linn expects the team’s success to translate to the regular season, but he knows that building trust and chemistry is not an easy task. With new starters, growing pains are imminent, but he mentioned that the more they can trust, the better they will be.

“It’s gonna take a lot of a lot of teamwork and just believing in each other,” Linn said. “That’s a big selling point is trusting one another. That was a key component of last year. You’ll have guys who played guys and guys who haven’t played, so that’s going to be tested at times.”

The Tigers are ready for the test and Antoniades and the Newhouse twins are intensifying their training to help teach and lead the team. They all see themselves stepping into leadership rules.

Linn trusts in their leadership and is keeping his strategy the same as last season. He wants to keep his team’s confidence high.

“We’re going to try to be very similar,” Linn said. “We’ve played really good defense. We’ve kind of tried to control the ball with our run game and to beat teams on special teams and just try to do things that don’t hurt ourselves and take us out of the game.”

The Tigers are preparing for a strong early season nonconference scheduled, including a matchup with rival West Allegheny in the opener. They know if they can start the season strong, they will have an opportunity to get back to the playoffs.

“I definitely think we’re going to make another playoff run,” Caden Newhouse said. “It’s definitely the goal right now. “We’re trying to work towards that and we can definitely get there. It’s just really all about getting that experience in the first non-conference weeks.”

“Everyone’s just trying to just work for that game right now,” Antoniandes said of the opener against West Allegheny. “Everyone’s working hard and we’re trying to get as many reps as possible in every drill.”

Moon

Coach: Ryan Linn

2021 record: 12-1, 5-0 in Class 5A Allegheny Six

All-time record: 353-455-19

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.26 West Allegheny, 7

9.2 at Montour, 7

9.9 Mt. Lebanon, 7

9.16 Penn Hills, 7

9.23 at Mars, 7

9.30 at South Fayette*, 7

10.7 Peters Township*, 7

10.14 at Bethel Park*, 7

10.21 Upper St. Clair*, 7

10.28 at Baldwin*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Tyler McGowan*

108-173, 1,378 yards, 8 TDs

Rushing: Dylan Sleva*

157-800, 10 TDs

Receiving: Taite Beachy*

43-515, 4 TDs

FAST FACTS

• Moon won its first WPIAL title in 1998, defeating Blackhawk, 34-7.

• Moon football players in the pros include Rich Milot, who played in the NFL from 1979-1987, and A.Q. Shipley, who played in the NFL from 2012-2020. Milot won two Super Bowls with Washington and Shipley won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020.

• Moon’s first football season was in 1935.

• Moon’s Tiger Stadium’s field is named after William “Rip” Scherer, who was Moon’s athletic director from 1969-1991. He was also the school’s varsity coach. Scherer played running back for Penn State as a walk-on.

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