Bentworth confident it can build on last season’s success despite graduation losses
Thursday, August 22, 2019 | 8:01 AM
When a team is struggling, sometimes a shakeup helps. A change in the lineup, a change of scenery or a different pre-game ritual can help to turn a team’s fortunes.
For the Bentworth football team, the change it needed came via a move from the Class 2A Century Conference to the Class A Tri-County South. The Bearcats went 5-5 overall and 4-3 in conference play during the 2018 season, their best marks since 2015, when they made the playoffs as a member of the Tri-County South Conference.
“Last year, moving to the Tri-County South, we were able to face schools that are very similar to ours,” said first-year coach John Knabb. “At the end of the day, though, you play who you play, and if you are going to be a good football team you got to beat good football teams. I think we got a little bit of confidence last year, and the kids knew what they were doing so I think that led a lot to the overall record.”
The 2019 season brings another big change with Knabb taking over. He served as an assistant last season under Ron Skiles and said it is nice to be able to see his vision taking shape on the field.
“I teach in the high school, so I know these kids and I see them every day,” Knabb said. “It’s kind of nice because you have your own ideas of how you want things to run and being able to see your vision take shape. Being in the building and seeing these kids every day has made the transition easier.”
After graduating 10 seniors, the Bearcats are left with an offensive line that returns only one starter. Though strong skill players surround them, Knabb knows there will be growing pains but trusts his players will be able to make the adjustment.
“Our entire offensive line is going to be underclassmen,” Knabb said. “It bodes well for the future, but we will probably have some growing pains early on. The guys are working hard and coming out. We have one returner we are leaning on, Nick Scarfo, our center, and we expect a lot out of him just out of a leadership point.”
That offensive line will be leaned on as Knabb wants to establish the Bearcats as a running team. He said they will be going with more two-back looks and will be looking for juniors Trent Cavanaugh and Owen Petrisek to build on their success from 2018.
Cavanaugh served as the primary back last season, running for 1,218 yards and 12 touchdowns on 180 carries. Petrisek added 468 yards and eight touchdowns on 65 carries. The duo combined for 20 of the team’s 35 touchdowns and gave Bentworth another layer to its offense.
“Trent Cavanaugh and Owen Petrisek really came alive in the backfield,” said Knabb, a former offensive lineman at Ohio. “We were able to transition from more of a passing offense to more of a running offense and had really good success with those guys. We were able to lean more on the run game then we have in the past.
“I’m a run guy. I like to run the ball. We aren’t necessarily going to be a ground and pound, but I am really working hard with these guys on the line to tell them our identity is going to be to run the ball. I want someone that watches our game to think ‘All right, that is a running team They count on running the ball and moving it well.’ ”
Cavanaugh’s leadership also will transition to the defense, where he serves as the team’s Mike linebacker. Last season, Cavanaugh led the way with 103 tackles and five sacks.
Joining Cavanaugh will be a group of starters who are going both ways for the first time in their careers.
“In his freshman and sophomore year (Cavanaugh) recorded over 100 tackles, so he is our plug right there in the middle,” Knabb said. “Nick Scarfo didn’t play a lot of defense last year, but he will be making the transition as a two-way starter on the line. We have a couple new kids that are very athletic, and we have them penciled in at defensive end and linebacker.”
Despite the low numbers, Knabb and his team are intent on contending for a playoff spot. Knabb feels if his team remains healthy, the Bearcats could be a darkhorse in the conference.
“I think we can surprise some teams this year,” Knabb said. “If we can stay healthy, I believe we can be competing for a playoff spot by the end of the year.”
Bentworth opens its season at home with a Week Zero game against Brownsville before playing its conference opener a week later against West Greene.
Coach: JJ Knabb
2018 record: 5-5, 4-3
All-time record: 222-323-7
Date, Opponent, Time
8.23, Brownsville, 7
8.30, at West Greene*, 7
9.6, Cornell, 7
9.13, at Chartiers-Houston*, 7
9.20, at Mapletown*, 7
9.27, Monessen*, 7
10.4, Avella*, 7
10.11, at California*, 7
10.18, at Leechburg, 7
10.25, Jefferson-Morgan*, 7
*Class A Tri-County South Conference game
Passing: Shawn Dziak
68-149, 761 yards, 7 TDs
Receiving: Dylan Farkas
15-232 yards, 2 TDs
Rushing: Trent Cavanaugh
180-1,182 yards, 15 TDs