CTK ’17 – 2-A Three Rivers Conference Preview

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Thursday, August 24, 2017 | 2:52 AM


Surely, Steel Valley can’t be as strong as last season, when the Ironmen won WPIAL and PIAA championships by invoking the mercy rule in every game.

Due to the loss of a number of players, Steel Valley can’t expect a repeat of such dominance. But the question is can anybody in the Class 2A Three Rivers Conference challenge Steel Valley this year?

A few other teams in the conference have experienced teams that should be better this season and can possibly challenge Steel Valley. Here is a look at the Three Rivers Conference:

AVONWORTH ANTELOPES

The Antelopes were mostly young and inexperienced a year ago, but still finished 5-5 and made the WPIAL playoffs. This year’s team has to replace multi-talented quarterback Garrett Day, but the Antelopes feel like they could be better, just with the experience gained last year.

Six starters return on both offense and defense. Derek Johncour, son of coach Duke Johncour, is ready to take over at quarterback. He saw some playing time last year at the position. Nick Weiser figures to lead the running game while Joey Bevilacqua is one of the top linemen.

BRENTWOOD SPARTANS

The Spartans don’t have much experience on the lines from a team that went 8-3 last season. But there is enough skill returning to make this team fairly strong again.

Michael Trent returns at quarterback after completing 64 of 119 passes for 1,057 yards last season. Evan Vickless was the team’s second-leading rusher with 435 yards while Austin Veatch was second in receptions with 30 for 518 yards.

CARLYNTON COUGARS

Carlynton won two games last year. That might not seem like much, but it was progress for the Cougars, who broke a 24-game losing streak. Now, can Carlynton get a little better this season?

A handful of starters return on both sides of the ball. Carlynton must certainly improve offensively after averaging only 13 points a game last season. One of the top returnees is Dallas Paolino, who ran for 282 yards on 84 carries last season. Hunter Crown returns at receiver.

EAST ALLEGHENY WILDCATS

Dom Pecora is in his fifth season as the Wildcats’ coach. This is the season the Wildcats have been waiting for.

If talented skill-position players mean anything, East Allegheny has a chance to be very good. T.J. Banks is a 6-foot-5 senior receiver-tight end who has 17 Division I scholarship offers. Banks caught 34 passes for 475 yards a year ago and also plays defense. Also back is quarterback Tamaine Underwood, who completed 114 of 207 for 1,547 yards last season. East Allegheny also returns its top two rushers in Davon McDougal (348 yards on 99 carries) and Jahi Rox (300 yards on 53 attempts).

Overall, East Allegheny has seven starters returning on offense and eight on defense. This could be East Allegheny’s best team in many years.

SERRA CATHOLIC EAGLES

Maybe the Eagles aren’t ready to soar, but maybe things are looking up for Serra. The Eagles went six seasons without winning more than three games. But last year, they finished 5-6 and made the playoffs as the fifth-place team in the Three Rivers.

Serra welcomes a new coach in Jose Regus and he welcomes seven returning starters on offense and seven on defense. Most notable among those returnees are some skill players who did some impressive things last season. Khalil Smith rushed for 1,425 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. Quarterback Evan Honick needs to improve his completion rate (84 of 223 last year), but he did throw for 1,099 yards and rush for 207. JaQuae Jackson caught 41 passes.

Other returning starters are WR Nate McCullough, WR-DB Malik Edmundson, WR-LB Noah South, WR-RB-DB Matt Ulishney, OL-DL Nick Kochis and OL-LB Mark Banner.

SOUTH ALLEGHENY GLADIATORS

For the first time in many years, Pat Monroe will not be on the South Allegheny sidelines. Monroe resigned as coach after last season and Mike Crown takes over. Crown has head coaching experience at Carlynton plus many years as an assistant, including some seasons at South Fayette.

Crown has a tough task, taking over a team that has won only 36 games since 2000. The Gladiators were 1-9 last year and were outscored by an average of 36-13. Running back A.J. Yarborough is one of the top returnees. But overall, only three starters return on offense and two on defense.

STEEL VALLEY IRONMEN

Gone is star receiver-defensive back Paris Ford, who is now at Pitt. Gone is running back DeWayne Murray, who ended up as the sixth-leading rusher in WPIAL history with 6,503 yards. Gone are other standout players who helped Steel Valley win WPIAL and PIAA titles last season.

But the cupboard is far from bare at Steel Valley.

Coach Rod Steele has another team that can definitely challenge for a WPIAL title. This team is not void of talent. One of the top players on the team is receiver-defensive back Amonte Strothers, who has some Division I scholarship offers.

Elsewhere, linebacker Todd Hill is in his third season as a starter. He will be a force. And then there is Najhier West, whose run in the state championship game last year made ESPN Sportscenter top 10 plays that day. West played second fiddle to Murray much of last year, but West showed his worth with 288 yards rushing in the PIAA championship game.

Another top returnee is WR-DB Troy Adams, but a key for Steel Valley might be at QB, where Trey Karfelt will be in his first year as a starter.

MSA SPORTS PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH in THREE RIVERS:

  1. Steel Valley Ironmen

  2. East Allegheny Wildcats

  3. Avonworth Antelopes

  4. Brentwood Spartans

  5. Serra Catholic Eagles

  6. South Allegheny Gladiators

  7. Carlynton Cougars

Don Rebel hosts the Rebel Yell podcasts for HSSN.

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