Cadin Olsen, Armstrong aim to build off 1st WPIAL playoff victory

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Sunday, August 14, 2022 | 12:01 PM


The Armstrong River Hawks are ready for one last ride with their standout quarterback Cadin Olsen at the helm.

Olsen eclipsed 2,500 yards passing and threw 28 touchdowns last fall coming off a year in which he led the WPIAL in passing yards. He’s committed to Penn, but first he and the rest of the team will try to build off winning their first playoff game in school history in 2021.

“He’s ready to rock and roll. He’s had a good offseason,” Armstrong coach Frank Fabian said. “He did his normal thing. His dad and him are pretty active on the camp circuit. He’s trained and put a lot of time into it. We have a lot of skill guys back. That always bodes well. We have a few holes to patch on the offensive and defensive lines. We’re getting anxious to get going.”

Olsen also rushed for a team-leading 830 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. Many of his weapons return, including leading receiver Isaiah Brown.

“Isaiah was was dealing with a foot issue dating back to last summer and it took him a while to get acclimated, but once we got him in there he was definitely our big-play receiver,” Fabian said. “He did a nice job working down the field as a vertical threat. Isaiah and Cadin have very good chemistry and that was evident again this summer. I’m glad those two are on our side.”

The top two running backs return in Alex Patton, a junior, and senior Jaxson Crissman, as well as H-back Dozick Zablocki.

Zablocki also paced the defense, leading the team in tackles with 114.

Jack Valasek is a returning starting receiver. The River Hawks also have a pair of promising younger receivers in sophomores Ian Olsen and Kyan Kline. Ian is Cadin’s younger brother.

“They were young and maybe didn’t put up a ton of touchdown numbers, but they played a lot of football last fall,” Fabian said. “Ian was the point guard on the basketball team as a freshman, and he’s had a really nice summer. We’re really excited about Kyan Kline. He was our backup quarterback last year, but we’ve moved him to wideout and he also had a really nice summer. Jack is one of Cadin’s basketball buddies, who came out for football for the first time last year. I always say the biggest jump is from year one to year two, so he’s another one we’re looking forward to seeing.”

Fabian said the biggest question mark coming into the season is the defensive line, because all four starters graduated.

Owen Kamer moved from outside linebacker to defensive end, and junior Will Adams brings experience to help shore up the line.

“The other two positions are up for grabs,” Fabian said. “They are going to be camp battles. We’ll put on the pads and see who separates themselves from the pack.”

Armstrong will have some new conference opponents in North Catholic and Kiski Area. Hampton, Mars, Highlands and Indiana return.

“Any time you play in the WPIAL it is tough, but we have Aliquippa Week 1 and go to New Castle in our nonsection games,” Fabian said. “We have North Catholic, who was the 3A runner-up moving up with us. With Coach (Eric) Kasperowicz at Mars, I’m sure it won’t take long for them to get going. Kiski is a 5A school dropping down. Hampton has a lot of pieces returning from their conference championship team, and Highlands had a lot of young, talented skill players last year.

“I’ve told the kids we don’t have any time to waste, because we’re playing an upper-level schedule this year for sure.”

Armstrong

Coach: Frank Fabian

2021 record: 8-4, 5-2 in Class 4A Greater Allegheny Conference

All-time record: 39-32

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.26 at Valley, 7

9.2 Aliquippa, 7

9.9 at New Castle, 7

9.16 Freeport, 7

9.23 at Hampton*, 7

9.30 North Catholic*, 7

10.7 at Indiana*, 7

10.14 Mars*, 7

10.21 at Highlands*, 7

10.28 Kiski Area*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Cadin Olsen

189-290, 2,501 yards, 28 TDs

Rushing: Olsen

150-830, 16 TDs

Receiving: Isaiah Brown

56-906, 7 TDs

FAST FACTS

• Cadin Olsen won the Willie Thrower Award last season, which recognizes the top high school quarterback in Southwestern Pennsylvania. It was the second year for the award, which honors the memory of Thrower, who was the first Black quarterback to play in the Big Ten (Michigan State, 1952) and in an NFL game (Chicago Bears, 1953).

• Armstrong is entering its eighth season as a program after the merger of Ford City and Kittanning. The River Hawks have qualified for the playoffs four times in seven years.

• Armstrong will travel to Valley for Week Zero, which will be the first meeting between the schools. Valley was a longtime rival of both Ford City and Kittanning in the old Allegheny Conference.

• Frank Fabian has been the head coach at Armstrong for the entirety of the program. Prior to the merger he coached at Kittanning and Redbank Valley.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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