Breakout players back to power West Greene

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Thursday, August 26, 2021 | 9:15 PM


For West Greene, the 2020 season was a mission to forge an identity after the Ben Jackson and Kolin Walker era of running through opponents.

The Pioneers lost three of their first four games but won three straight to close the season, and with 11 starters returning on offense and 10 on defense, they hope to keep the momentum rolling this fall.

“In 2019, to be honest, it didn’t take a lot to get Ben Jackson and Kolin Walker going and producing,” West Greene coach Brian Hanson said. “With those guys gone last year, a major growing pain was getting our guys to understand that the effort they put forth that year before wasn’t going to cut it. They had to find a way to up their intensity for us to be successful. It was good that we finished off on a strong note, and I’m hoping that these guys continue on that upward trend.”

Wes Whipkey returns at quarterback after throwing for 637 yards and eight touchdowns last year. Colin Brady, a sophomore who rushed for 11 touchdowns a season ago, will share the backfield with four-year starter Corey Wise. Hunter Hamilton and Dalton Lucey will be at wide receiver. The Pioneers’ leading receiver last year was tight end Nathan Orndoff, who had five touchdown catches.

Another player who could make an impact at receiver is Billy Whitlach, who Hanson said is only 5-foot-4, 140 pounds, but is a 1,000-pound club member in the West Greene weight room.

Casey Miller, Brian Jackson, Josiah Tagaro, Owen Hughes and Tristan White make up the offensive line.

Over the course of the season, the Pioneers found that they could have a more balanced attack offensively compared to when they leaned on Jackson to run the ball on the majority of plays in 2019.

“We know what we have now,” Hanson said. “An example would be going into last year, we didn’t really know what we had in Colin Brady. We knew he was a great athlete, but we didn’t know how we would use him and in what capacity. After our first scrimmage, we knew right away that we needed to find a way to get him the ball. Then we figured out that Wes Whipkey can throw the ball some and our receivers showed some promise. We realized we can be successful, but it will be a little bit different than before. We’re going to try to be as balanced as possible.”

Many of the same key players on offense will be counted upon on defense. Wise and Brady will be linebackers.

Hanson is hopeful to use Brian Anderson as an edge rusher and said that he is a bit undersized but has offset that with hard work in the weight room.

Whipkey, Hamilton, Lucey and Orndoff make up the secondary. Miller, Jackson and White will be on the defensive line with Johnny Lampe.

In West Greene’s WPIAL semifinal run two years ago, it allowed only 15 points per game and had three shutouts but gave up five more points per game in 2020.

“In 2019, we were able to dominate teams up front, but we weren’t remotely like that last year,” Hanson said. “From an X’s and O’s standpoint, our biggest challenge is going to be getting back to swarming to the football and out-hitting opponents.”

West Greene will look to take back the Tri-County South crown and opens conference play by hosting reigning champ, California, Sept. 17 after three nonconference games.

“Familiarity is always a good thing,” Hanson said of the continuity of the Tri-County South. “You can see your strengths and weaknesses clearer when you have familiarity with opponents. The only downside is that when you get in the playoffs, you may see a team that is a radically different type of team, whether it’s athletically or schematically.

“We don’t see too many wide-open attacks in the Tri-County South. It’s a smashmouth style of football. Even the teams that run a spread-style offense still want to pound the rock.”

West Greene

Coach: Brian Hanson

2020 record: 4-3, 3-3 in Class A Tri-County South Conference

All-time record: 204-405-10

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.27 at Cameron (W. Va.), 7

9.3 Burgettstown, 7

9.10 at Beth-Center, 7

9.17 California*, 7

9.24 at Avella*, 7

10.1 Carmichaels*, 7

10.8 Bentworth*, 7

10.15 at Monessen*, 7

10.22 Jefferson-Morgan*, 7

10.29 at Mapletown*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Wes Whipkey

33-68, 637 yards, 8 TDs

Rushing: Colin Brady

88-823, 11 TDs

Receiving: Nathan Orndoff

13-344, 5 TDs

FAST FACTS

• West Greene will go out of state for its Week Zero game but will travel only a half-hour to do so. The Pioneers will play at Cameron (W. Va.) Aug. 27. Cameron is a neighboring school district to West Greene, which is in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania.

• The Pioneers’ lone WPIAL championship appearance was in 1993 when they lost to Duquesne 55-0.

• West Greene has finished with a winning record each of the last four years.

• Brian Hanson is entering his third season with the Pioneers. He previously coached in Maryland and in Eastern Pennsylvania at York Country School of Technology. He was a walk-on linebacker at Pitt.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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