CTK ’17 – 5-A Allegheny Nine Conference Preview
By: Don Rebel
Monday, August 21, 2017 | 3:36 PM
Look on the sidelines in games involving Allegheny Conference teams and you might want to often say, “Hey, new guy.”
The Allegheny Nine is full of new head coaches. Of the nine teams, four have new head coaches. One team, Woodland Hills, has changed head coaches twice since the end of last season.
The new coaches are Tim Bostard at Woodland Hills; Loran Cooley at Baldwin; Dan Knause at Chartiers Valley; and Ryan Linn at Moon. At Woodland Hills, Bostard was named coach just a week or so ago. Legendary George Novak resigned after last season. Kevin Murray, a Novak assistant, was hired in the spring, but recently resigned. Bostard also was an assistant under Novak and also is Woodland Hills’ assistant athletic director.
A year ago, West Allegheny won the conference title, followed by Woodland Hills, Upper St. Clair and North Hills. Those four teams made the playoffs, although Fox Chapel came on strong. The makeup of the conference looks much the same this year.
Here is a look at the Allegheny Nine:
Cooley was an assistant at Clairton last year before coming to Baldwin. He also has been an assistant at Gateway and years ago at Duquesne University. He will try to jumpstart a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2003.
Things won’t be easy for Cooley because Baldwin graduated many starters from last year’s team that went 2-7. Lucas Perfetti, a 5-11, 280-pound lineman, is a top returnee. WR-DB Dre Howell is a player to watch. Mason Stahl takes over at quarterback.
CHARTIERS VALLEY COLTS
Knause takes over the Colts, who finished 3-7 last season and averaged only 14 points a game. Knause has head coaching experience, though, and also experience at trying to turn around a program. He was once Cornell’s coach.
Knause has a few experienced skill players to build around. Reed Bruggeman returns at quarterback. He is a dual-threat type of quarterback. Steve Alauzen showed some promise a year ago at running back. At the receiver spots, Connor Barrett and Anthony Doyle return.
Barrett is one of the defensive leaders at linebacker. Doyle also started in the secondary along with Dylan Ablak and Troy Donofrio.
FOX CHAPEL FOXES
If momentum can carry over from one season to the next, then things are looking up at Fox Chapel. After starting the season 0-5, Fox Chapel won its final five games and missed the playoffs by a game.
Some key players return to Tom Loughran’s team. At the top of the list is Micah Morris, a talented running back who ran for more than 1,000 yards last season. He came on strong the last half of the season, as did quarterback Nick Gizzo, who rushed for almost 900 yards. Another top returnee is lineman Riley Mitchell.
If that momentum does indeed carry over, the Foxes should be seriously challenging for a playoff spot.
There is only one way to go for this Hampton team – up. The Talbots were winless in 2016. They had problems on both sides of the ball, averaging only nine points a game and giving up 34.
A rebuilding process can start with an experienced quarterback and the Talbots have that in Ross Anderson, who has been on the varsity since his freshman year.
It’s Ryan’s hope that Moon can challenge for a playoff spot this season. Ryan Linn takes over as coach after Brendan Hathaway resigned in the spring. Linn has been a Moon assistant the past three seasons. HE also has been an assistant at West Allegheny, Freedom and South Side Beaver.
Linn has something to work with as 10 starters return. The offense has two playmakes in senior QB Cole Konieczka, junior Brady Sunday and senior receiver Anthony Panucci, who also could see time at running back. Konieczka threw for 1,150 yards last season. As for Panucci, he scored touchdowns four different ways last year. Brady rushed for a little more than 400 yards last season. Tight end Frank Steratore also is one of the top returnees on offense.
The other returning starters are receiver Nick Sebastian, lineman Marques Duncan, defensive lineman Simon Unis, lineman Nick Kotok, who goes 6-3, 275, defensive end Kyle Kuminkoski and defensive back Jake Dunning.
NORTH HILLS INDIANS
This team could be a sleeper of the conference. The Indians showed some promise at times last season. They had West Allegheny beat until WA came on strong in the fourth quarter to pull out a close win.
Some key players return from that North Hills team. Will Hirt returns at quarterback. Leading rusher Nick Santucci graduated, but Melvin Blanks made some key plays at receiver/running back last year and will play more of a prominent role at running back this season. Tyler Brennan returns at receiver after showing flashes of talent at times last season.
Also, Lirion Murtezi is a 6-3 junior who could become one of the top linemen in the conference after injuries held him back last year. Senior tackle Jason Heinauer is another top returnee.
UPPER ST. CLAIR PANTHERS
The Panthers have some key players returning, but also some question marks. Overall, coach Jim Render’s team figures to be near the top of the conference again, with a conference title not totally out of the question.
The biggest question marks with Upper St. Clair are on the lines. Most of the Panther lineman are inexperienced and not on the big side. If those linemen come together, especially offensively, things are looking up for USC. Two returning lineman are Dante Greco and Phil Elias.
The offense seemingly has nice potential, though, and one of the reasons is running back Colin McLinden, who rushed for 505 yards on 91 attempts last season. Jack Hansberry completed 75 of 144 for 960 yards.
Upper St. Clair coach Jim Render needs only 10 wins to reach 400 for his career.
WEST ALLEGHENY INDIANS
West Allegheny won the WPIAL championship last year and coach Bob Palko became the first in league history to win eight titles.
With many top players graduated from that team, and with two of the best transferring to other schools, it might be hard to see a ninth title for Palko. But it’s hard to bet against the team that always seems to win games at a high rate. Four starters return on both offense and defense.
On offense, Kenny White would’ve been a top senior running back for the Indians, but transferred to Pine-Richland. Brandon Lipford, a receiver, transferred to Montour only a few weeks ago. Developing a new quarterback will be key. Jamie Diven or Kam Kruze were battling for the job.
Will Weber rushed for 436 yards and averaged 7 yards a carry last year. He will be a bigger part of the offense this year. Zach Hoge is a returning lineman.
On defense, Anthony Dellovade should be one of the conference’s top linebackers.
WOODLAND HILLS WOLVERINES
The Wolverines have had plenty of distractions in recent months. With that in mind, you can bet they are looking forward to starting games and just playing football.
George Novak resigned after last season. Kevin Murray was hired, but some issues with him as school principal surfaced. He resigned as coach shortly before the start of preseason practices and then resigned as principal. Tim Bostard took over.
This team was hit hard by graduation. But two players return who played at quarterback. They are Daniel Jones and Michael Whitehearse. Looking for running back Rodney Dennard to have a big season.
This is one of the few times Woodland Hills doesn’t go into a season ranked high in its own classification. The Wolverines certainly will have to prove themselves this season.
MSA SPORTS PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH in ALLEGHENY NINE:
- West Allegheny Indians
- Upper St. Clair Panthers
- Woodland Hills Wolverines
- North Hills Indians
- Fox Chapel Foxes
- Baldwin Highlanders
- Moon Tigers
- Chartiers Valley Colts
- Hampton Talbots
Don Rebel hosts the Rebel Yell podcasts for HSSN.