CTK ’16: 2-A Three Rivers Conference Preview

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Friday, August 26, 2016 | 10:21 AM


The Three Rivers Conference was demolished after 1999, just two years before Three Rivers Stadium was demolished.

But the Three Rivers Conference has come back to life.

With six classifications in Pennsylvania football this year, new conferences were formed in the WPIAL. The eight teams in this Class 2A section decided to call themselves the Three Rivers Conference.

The funny thing is, only one team (Carlynton) that is a member of the Three Rivers this season also was in the last Three Rivers Conference in 1999.

Here is a look at the new Three Rivers Conference:

AVONWORTH ANTELOPES

The Antelopes will look a lot different this year. Why? Because they don’t have a quarterback who set a WPIAL record last season.

Zach Chandler broke Bruce Gradkowski’s regular-season passing record in 2015, but Chandler has graduated. Moving into the QB spot is Garrett Day, who was one of the leading receivers in the WPIAL last season. Avonworth will use Day in wildcat formations.

Avonworth lost a number of other starters from last year’s team that went 8-3 and finished second to Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic in the Black Hills Conference. Coach Duke Johncour has to replace a number of other players, but Johncour has this program on solid footing, and a down season seems unlikely.

Ryan Hunt is the leading returning rusher, but he is moving to the line. Most of the top receivers graduated. Sebastian Mihalko caught 11 passes a year ago. Returning players who could see time at receiver or be keys on defense are Alex Osborn, J.J. Igims and Matt Crilley. Nick Weiser and Alex Quinn could help the running game.

BRENTWOOD SPARTANS

The Spartans finished 3-6 last season, their first losing season since 2008. They missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007, when they were in Class AA.

Now Brentwood plays in a new conference with teams from the south and the north. The Spartans have to replace leading rusher Pat Carr, who graduated. But there is skill returning with quarterback Ricky Gralish, who threw for 700 yards last season and rushed for 223, and receiver Dorian Bowie, who was first-team all-conference last year and was the team’s leading receiver.

The other three returning starters are linemen Josh Moon, Jordan Karofa-Jackson and Giovanni Segura.

CARLYNTON COUGARS

The Cougars haven’t won a game since 2013 and are going through a 22-game losing streak. Improvements are needed in many areas, but especially on offense. The Cougars scored only 51 points in nine games a year ago and only 95 in 2014.

Playing in a new conference that isn’t as strong as the old Century gives Carlynton some hope. One of the other reasons is quarterback Courtney Mickens, who is a three-year starter. Developing a running game will be key.

Experience returns on the lines with Antonio Munoz, who is 6-3, 330, Jacob Elias and Armonti Pendleton.

EAST ALLEGHENY WILDCATS

The Wildcats haven’t finished above .500 since 2008. There have been a few playoff appearances since then but no season with a winning record. Could this be the year?

Dom Pecora begins his third season as coach and he played a lot of young players his first two years. Those young players might be ready to make impacts this year. One of them is T.J. Banks, one of the first Division I prospects at East Allegheny in a while. He is a 6-foot-5, 220-pound junior defensive end who has a scholarship offer from Toledo.

The lines are anchored by two four-year starters. They are Tyrese Coulverson and Chris Bucar.

Quarterback seems to be solid with the return of Tamaine Underwood, who saw considerable action last season.

SERRA CATHOLIC EAGLES

After winning a total of four games in the four previous seasons, things got a little better for Serra last year as the Eagles finished 3-6. Will the improvement continue? It’s hard to say, but the Eagles should be competitive with some of the teams in this conference.

Khalil Smith returns after leading the team in rushing and scoring last season. He will be a key. Jimmy Schopp transferred from Penn Hills and could help at RB. Serra also lost a transfer when receiver Corey Thomas transferred to Central Catholic.

At quarterback, Evan Honick returns after seeing some playing time last year. Serra’s lines should be solid with all seniors. Jaquare Jackson and Jordan Pulkownik return at receiver.

SOUTH ALLEGHENY GLADIATORS

After going 7-3 in 2012, one of the best seasons in school history, the Gladiators haven’t won more than two games in a season since. Like a number of other squads in this conference, coach Pat Monroe’s team is hoping to improve and possibly climb into the top half of the conference.

If that is going to happen, South Allegheny must improve defensively after allowing 41.5 points a game last season. The Gladiators certainly have a big man to plug things up in the middle of the defensive line. Ian Naspinski is 6-1, 310 pounds and in his fourth year as a starter.

Overall, six starters return on both offense and defense. Spencer Kane and Jalen Koontz will anchor the lines along with Nick Steack. Tyler Hinerman returns at quarterback.

STEEL VALLEY IRONMEN

The new classifications definitely help Steel Valley. If the Ironmen were in 3A, they might not be ranked ahead of Aliquippa, Beaver Falls or Central Valley. But in 2A, Steel Valley is being pegged by many as the No. 1 team.

The main reason for the optimism at Steel Valley is the return of running back Dewayne Murray – and the addition of Paris Ford, who transferred from Seton-LaSalle. Murray has rushed for more than 4,000 yards in his career while Ford, a receiver-defensive back, is rated highly by national scouting services. Ford already is committed to Pitt.

Murray and Ford should make for one of the top one-two offensive punches in this classification. Steel Valley also has experienced linemen to block for the two. Scott Snyder, Henry Spencer and Jordan Brown all return on the lines.

Steel Valley will break in a new quarterback, though, in Ryan Harper.

The defense has one of the best young players in this classification as Todd Hill made all-conference linebacker as a freshman. Ford will be an impact player defensively also at DB. The secondary should be excellent with Ford, Murray, Tremiere Redden and Zaiquan Henderson.

VINCENTIAN ACADEMY ROYALS

The Royals have a new coach, who was coaching at another northern area Catholic school two years ago. Bob Ravenstahl won a WPIAL and a PIAA title at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic before resigning after the 20014 season. He did not coach last year, but is the new coach at Vincentian.

It will be a huge task to get this relatively new program to have some success. The first two seasons in the WPIAL, the Royals finished 1-8 and 2-7.

Vincentian lost a potential quarterback when David Fleming left and transferred to Deer Lakes. Cam Kreutzer looks to take over at quarterback. Running back Jimmy Seskey is one of only four seniors on the team. The line features 6-5, 260-pound Dominic Hite.

MSA SPORTS PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH:

1.      Steel Valley Ironmen

2.      Avonworth Antelopes

3.      Brentwood Spartans

4.      South Allegheny Gladiators

5.      East Allegheny Wildcats

6.      Serra Catholic Eagles

7.      Carlynton Cougars

8.      Vincentian Academy Royals

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