Bishop Canevin ready to rebuild brick by brick

Saturday, September 5, 2020 | 11:04 PM

Building takes time … brick by brick.

There are steps to every project, and levels that need to be achieved.

New Bishop Canevin football coach Richard Johnson hopes to establish a solid foundation this season and begin to rebuild the proud program at Bishop Canevin.

Brick by brick.

“It’s a slogan for the program and the future,” said Johnson, who was an assistant coach at Baldwin the past two seasons. “That’s just how we’re trying to build it. We have a lot to work on, not just with the team but the program as a whole.”

Bishop Canevin finished 1-9 last season and is 7-23 the past three years. The Crusaders have now had four coaches in five years, but Johnson has vowed to rebuild a program that was among the WPIAL’s best under longtime coach Bob Jacoby, who retired in 2013.

His plan begins in the classroom, where he preaches accountability and attention to detail when it comes to players’ schoolwork. On the field, he expects players to focus on the fundamentals and be good teammates.

“Becoming a team, picking each other up and being able to rely on each other,” he said of his goals for his players on the field.

From there, it’s a matter of building more and more with each practice and each game. Offensive and defensive schemes will highlight the team’s strengths in the areas of speed, athleticism and playmaking ability.

“We’re going to be fast, aggressive and fundamentally sound,” Johnson said. “We have to go back to the fundamentals and teach, teach, teach until they aren’t thinking and just doing it.”

Johnson expects the Crusaders’ final roster to have between 25-30 players, a welcome luxury after last year’s team was forced to forfeit a midseason game because of a lack of healthy players.

The Crusaders return 10 letter winners on both sides of the ball, including their leading skill players.

Junior Willie Banks (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) threw for 420 yards and three scores last season. He also ran for 387 yards and a score. He returns under center to lead the offense and also will be an outside linebacker.

“Willie has the tools you want out of an athlete,” Johnson said. “We are challenging him to be a better leader on and off the field and take on that role.”

Banks’ top returning target is sophomore Xavier Nelson, who had 14 catches for 164 yards and four scores a year ago. He also will play defensive back.

“Xavier has put a lot of work in over the summer,” Johnson said. “From everything I keep hearing, he tore up the 7-on-7 tournaments he was able to make.”

The bulk of the carries will again go to Keyshawn Harris, a junior running back/linebacker who ran for 459 yards and four touchdowns a year ago.

A young offensive line will be anchored by seniors Carmen Worral (6-2, 220) and Collin Milko (5-10, 190), who also will make the calls on defense at middle linebacker.

“Colin Melko stepped up and has been a leader on and off the field,” Johnson said. “He’s put in tremendous work in the weight room.

“Carmen has got it in his head that he’s tired of losing. He wants to go out of Canevin with a bang. He’s locked in, put in the work and is excited. He’s taking young guys under his wing and is asserting himself as a leader. It’s been good to watch.”

Other returning letter winners include seniors Jordan Ruffing (TE/LB) and Alex Brooks (OL/DL) and sophomores Adantae Berrien (WR/LB), Juice Garth (OL/DL) and Andrew Johns (WR/DB).

There also will several freshmen who make an immediate jump into the lineup, especially in the trenches.

The Crusaders, who went 1-6 in the Class A Big Seven Conference last season, have been realigned to the Class A Eastern Conference this fall with the likes of defending WPIAL champion Clairton and perennial power Jeannette, as well as Greensburg Central Catholic, Imani Christian, Leechburg, Riverview and Springdale.

“Our guys look good in shorts, but what’s going to happen when times get tough and we have to go to Clairton and Jeannette and fight in the trenches?” Johnson said. “Do you depend on the guy next to you to do their job? If we can come together as a team, we’ll definitely surprise some people.”


Coach: Richard Johnson

2019 record: 1-9, 1-6 Class A Big Seven

All-time record: 301-280-12

Date Opponent Time

9.12 Imani Christian,* 7

9.19, Springdale,* 7

9.25 at Greensburg C.C.,* 7

10.3 Clairton,* 7

10.10 Leechburg,* 7

10.16 at Jeannette,* 7

10.24 at Riverview,* 12

* Class A Eastern Conference game

Home games at Dormont Stadium

Statistical leaders

Passing: Willie Banks

42-107, 420 yards, 3 TDs

Receiving: Xavier Nelson

14-164 yards, 4 TDs

Rushing: Keyshawn Harris

89-459 yards, 4 TDs

Fast facts

• Johnson replaces T.J. Wiley, who was 1-9 in his lone season at Bishop Canevin.

• Johnson brought in several motivational speakers to talk with the players in the offseason. The group included the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Hilton, SEC men’s basketball player of the year Immanuel Quickley from Kentucky and Alison Pate, who directs camps run by NBA players.

• Bishop Canevin won its lone WPIAL title in 1990 (Class AA) under longtime coach Bob Jacoby.

• The new coaching staff has started a campaign to help upgrade the locker room facilities.

Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at or via Twitter @BHartlep_Trib.


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