Allegheny Conference flush with abundance of talent

Friday, August 12, 2022 | 6:41 PM

Allegheny Conference football teams are again ready to contend for a WPIAL title in 2022.

And no one should be surprised if one of them brings home Class 2A gold or at least makes it to a WPIAL title game.

In the last five seasons, teams from the realigned conference — Steel Valley and Serra Catholic — have won WPIAL titles. Derry and Imani Christian were WPIAL runners-up.

From 1960 to 1975 in its former grouping, the Allegheny Interscholastic Conference, at least one team made a WPIAL title game 15 of those 16 seasons.

Steel Valley and coach Ray Braszo are ready to defend their title.

“We have some returnees back. We lost a couple of our best players, but we’ve got a lot of good kids and some experience coming back,” Braszo said Friday.

Leading the Ironmen will be quarterback Cruce Brookins, a preseason TribHHSN All-Star, and 6-foot-5, 315-pound lineman Greg Smith, who has committed to Miami (Ohio).

Steel Valley was among the schools taking part in the conference’s media day Friday at Burrell.

The Allegheny Conference now has eight teams. Besides Steel Valley, Derry, Imani Christian and Burrell, there’s defending WPIAL champion Serra Catholic, Apollo-Ridge, Ligonier Valley and Yough.

“I like this (new alignment), and I personally know each coach in this conference,” Burrell’s Shawn Liotta said. “I have deep familiarity with them, and I think it’s going to be a good conference.”

“Five teams will go to the playoffs out of the eight, and I think it’s going to be a dogfight every week.”

This will be Ligonier Valley’s third season back as a WPIAL member, and veteran coach Roger Beitel’s team has become comfortable in its new confines.

“I think the conference has changed a lot,” Beitel said. “We welcome Imani Christian, Derry, Burrell and Yough, so there’s a new look and an exciting conference with four Westmoreland County teams getting a chance to play each other, especially a school that borders us eight miles away. That’s one of the reasons we came to the WPIAL.”

The Rams were 85-11 in their final nine Heritage Conference seasons.

“I think it’s the culture, getting your players and coaches all on the same page and having a long consistency has really helped us,” said Beitel. “That’s helped us through the transition. From seventh grade on up, and even in the midget program, our coaches are doing some extra time in the youth program.”

Lineman Ty Wilkins is ready to contend for a return to the WPIAL playoffs.

“The seniors who led us when we were freshmen had set a pretty big precedent, and I think we’re doing all we can to prepare for the upcoming season,” Wilkins said.

New Yough coach Ben Hoffer is eager to see how his team, relocated from Class 3A, stacks up.

“Coaching last year at East Allegheny, I’m kind of familiar with Steel Valley, Serra, Burrell and Apollo-Ridge,” Hoffer said. “I’m excited for the challenge. I’m telling our kids to make sure they’re in games in the fourth quarter, and the wins will come.”

Hoffer, a Yough graduate, feels he’ll get the time to establish continuity with the players and the future for Yough is bright.

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