Carlynton looks to turn corner in more normal season
Saturday, August 21, 2021 | 6:01 AM
The Carlynton football team won its season opener for a third straight year in 2020, albeit via forfeit when Sto-Rox could not field a team for its Class 2A Three Rivers Conference opener.
The Cougars also ended last season with a convincing victory over Riverview.
In between, though, were losses in five of six games for Carlynton, which finished tied for fifth place in the six-team conference.
“I think we made positive strides with the program all things considered,” Carlynton coach Rich Piccinini said. “Trying to balance football with the covid guidelines, we ended with a good team victory with a lot of positives.”
Piccinini hopes a lot of the covid restrictions from 2020 are in the rearview mirror as the team prepares for 2021.
“It will be good to get back to some normalcy,” he said. “Practice and the game dynamics were really changed. It was good to see how the team adjusted and moved forward.”
Carlynton will move forward with six starters back on offense and five returning on defense.
The strength of the Cougars may be up front where a pair of seniors are set to be in the starting lineup for a fourth straight year with Tyler Masdea (6-1, 250) and Pierce Greiner (6-5, 285).
“This season’s line is going to be really strong,” Greiner said. “We have two four-year starters and two three-year starters returning, so we have an experienced line. We lost one of our key lineman last year, so our young players have big shoes to fill.”
Also back with plenty of experience is three-year starter Bryce Rodriguez at defensive back. The senior will be plugged into various roles on offense. Junior Shawn Curry will lead the ground game and also will start at defensive back.
“We are excited about continuing to improve the program,” Piccinini said. “We have quite a few players now returning that have started or have had significant playing time in the program since I took over.”
Piccinini is also excited about three newcomers in Najeh Austin, Devonte Dean and Dayvon Parker.
More new players are needed, though, as the program continues to battle with roster size concerns.
“As always with smaller schools, you worry about numbers,” Piccinini said. “But we are at the point now where we want to turn the corner and continue to learn how to finish out games and be successful.”
Carlynton will once again do battle in the Three Rivers Conference, which is home to the team to beat in Class 2A, according to Piccinini.
“Double-A is strong with possibly one of our conference teams, Sto-Rox, being right at the top,” he said. “One of our nonconference opponents, Serra, is also a very talented team.”
Greiner is optimistic about the 2021 Cougars because of the growth of the program in his four years at Carlynton.
“Our program has taken many strides in the last three years and have rebuilt from scratch,” he said. “This year, everybody’s attitude and mentality are in the same place, and I think that is the key to our success this year. We are looking to be playoff contenders this year, but for right now, we are going to take it week by week and one game at a time.”
Coach: Rich Piccinini
2019 record: 3-5, 1-4 in Class 2A Three Rivers Conference
All-time record: 174-305-10
8.27 at Northgate, 7
9.3 Bishop Canevin, 7
9.11 at Riverview, 12
9.17 Shady Side Academy, 7
9.24 Serra Catholic, 7
10.1 at Brentwood*, 7
10.8 South Side*, 7
10.15 at Seton LaSalle*, 7
10.22 Western Beaver*, 7
10.29 at Sto-Rox*, 7
Passing: Khalil Kerr
15-29, 262 yards, 1 TD
Receiving: Lajuan Turner
5-112, 1 TD
Rushing: Bryan Lee*
61-360, 1 TD
• Rich Piccinini begins his third season as head coach at Carlynton.
• The Cougars have the third longest playoff drought in the WPIAL, now at 20 years. Carlynton last qualified for the district football postseason in 2001 when they lost to Beaver Falls in the first round of the Class AA playoffs, 30-28.
• Carlynton has back-to-back three-win seasons. The last time the Cougars won six games over a two-year period was in 2011 (5 wins) and 2012 (1 win).
• This is the 51st season of Carlynton football. The Cougars have a record of 174-305-10 all time.
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