Cornell restocks shelves after breakout season

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Tuesday, August 25, 2020 | 11:22 PM


Cornell took a break from competing in football in the WPIAL in 2012.

The program returned to action in 2016 and promptly went winless.

But that was the start of something special. The Raiders steadily improved and in 2019, reached the WPIAL Class A semifinals and earned the school’s first postseason victory in the process. They finished 9-2.

Now Cornell coach Ed Dawson has the job of replacing the core of his offense.

Graduation took away quarterback Zaire Harrison, running back Savon Wilson and wide receivers Kaden DiVito, Isaiah Langston and Blaine Sims.

Harrison threw for 2,230 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also led the team in rushing with 666 yards and 15 touchdowns. Wilson caught 19 passes for 332 yards and rushed for 305 yards. He scored nine touchdowns.

DiVito was the leading receiver with 42 catches for 530 yards, Langston had 25 catches for 549 yards, and Sims had 23 catches for 291 yards.

“We have to restock the shelves,” Dawson said. “We return three linemen, wide receiver Raequan Troutman and running back Ameer Hibbler.”

Finding a quarterback to replace Harrison is Dawson’s main concern. Battling for that spot is his son E.J. Dawson, Kaden Madan, Robert McKnight, Emillio Gonzales and Micah Dickerson.

“We’ll have good competition for the job,” Dawson said. “I told them they had to be patient. Zaire got better and better every year. He got stronger and was smarter every season.”

Returning up front are Shaun Godfrey, Craig Pulford and Mark Fanchar.

The returning skill players back are Troutman, who had 24 catches for 318 yards, and Hibbler, who rushed for 231 yards and scored seven touchdowns.

While the offense stole the headlines last season, Dawson said the defense was overlooked.

The defensive unit, which should be a strength this season, allowed an average of 15.3 points per game, giving up 20 or more points in four games.

“We’re going to be fast on defense,” Dawson said. “We might not be big, but we’ll need to be gang tacklers and get to the football. Creating turnovers is the key.

“I believe we’ll have the skill to score points on offense. But I’m counting on our defense to key us in games early in the season.”

Schedule

Coach: Ed Dawson

2019 record: 9-2, 6-1 in Class A Big Seven Conference

All-time record: 181-244-11

Date, Opponent, Time

9.11, OLSH*, 7

9.18, at Northgate*, 7

9.25, Shenango*, 7

10.2, at Union*, 7

10.9, Burgettstown*, 7

10.16, Rochester*, 7

10.23, at Fort Cherry*, 7

*Class A Big Seven Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Zaire Harrison*

128-238, 2,230 yards, 24 TDs

Rushing: Harrison*

114-666 yards, 15 TDs

Receiving: Kaden DiVito*

42-530 yards, 6 TDs

*Graduated

Fast facts

• Cornell reached the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2011 in 2019.

• The 32-27 victory against California in 2019 was school’s first WPIAL playoff victory.

• Cornell is a merger of Coraopolis and Neville Township in 1971.

• The only time the Raiders won a conference title was in 1983 when they were a member of the West Hills Conference.

• The Raiders’ first playoff appearance was in 1980, a 19-0 loss to Shenango.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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