CTK 2010 – WPIAL AA ALLEGHENY Conference Preview

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Friday, August 27, 2010 | 12:00 AM


Allegheny Conference teams won’t have to “get real” so fast this season. Over the past two seasons, the Allegheny has consisted of 10 teams, which meant all teams started playing conference games the first night of the season. There were no non-conference games. Everything was real from the get-go.

But this season, the Allegheny has only eight teams, which means conference games won’t begin until the third week of the season. All teams will play seven conference games.

The reason for a smaller conference is the WPIAL realigns every two years. Under the current realignment, Valley and Kittanning moved out of the Allegheny and “up” to Class AAA, based on their school enrollments.

This year’s Allegheny members might be out to improve the conference’s reputation. The rep took a hit last year when Allegheny teams were 0-4 in the playoffs.

Here is a look at the Allegheny with a predicted order of finish at the end:

APOLLO-RIDGE VIKINGS

There is reason for optimism at Apollo-Ridge as the Vikings have six starters returning on both offense and defense.

The offense averaged only 13 points a game last season, but quarterback Josh Zelonka returns along with leading rusher, Eean Smith. Running back Shane Wingard and receiver Kyler Martin also are back. Both play defensive back, too.

Returning linemen are center-defensive end Zack Hill (5-10, 200), guard-linebacker Brad Campbell (6-1, 210) and guard-defensive tackle Ryan Mack (5-10, 250).

With the experience, Apollo-Ridge might be able to improve on their 3-6 season of a year ago.

BURRELL BUCCANEERS

Burrell averaged 30 points a game last season, but the main question with this team is what will the offense be like with only one returning starter. The biggest loss was quarterback Cam Nelson, who graduated. But Burrell also lost Dave Yakopec, a first-team all-conference receiver who decided not to play this year. He is a Pitt baseball recruit.

Coach Tom Henderson pretty much has to rebuild the offense. However, Danny Domanski, the lone returning starter on offense, showed plenty of promise last year. He will be featured more in the offense this season. Zach Middleby takes over for Nelson at quarterback.

On defense, Brian Beattie figures to be one of the top linemen in the conference. He was a first-team all-conference defensive end last season. Defensive tackle Sean Bates will be one of the other leaders on offense.

DEER LAKES LANCERS

The Lancers need to improve defensively if they are to make the WPIAL playoffs for the first time in school history. They were outscored, 151-13, in the final four games alone.

Offensively, quarterback Geoff Landry graduated after throwing for mor ethan 1,000 yards last year. But the Lancers’ top three pass-catchers are back. Zac Capan is a 6-3, 215-pound senior who has moved from receiver to tight end. He caught 27 passes for 281 yards last season. Also back are receivers Mitch Martin and Mark Wesolek.

Matt Schultz saw some action last season at running back.

Deer Lakes has never qualified for the WPIAL playoffs in school history.

FORD CITY SABERS

After finishing in either first or second place in the conference six years in a row, the Sabers finished 6-3 last year and missed the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2002.

But Ford City looks primed for a return trip to the postseason. Coach John Bartolovic has a number of experienced players, especially at the skill position. Mike Krochta was the team’s leading rusher last season and was first-team all-conference. Also back is quarterback Cody Gispanski. Jake Klingensmith is one of the top linemen after having a good sophomore season.

On defense, Dylan Piper-Stitt could be a standout at linebacker after making first-team all-conference last season.

Ford City also has a talented kicker in Andrew Huska.

FREEPORT YELLOWJACKETS

Freeport and Shady Side Academy tied for the conference title a year ago and many are picking those same two teams to be at the top again, with Ford City right in the mix.

Freeport has six starters returning on both offense and defense. Jake Campbell, a 6-foot, 185-pound senior, was first-team all-conference a year ago. He will also play running back. Jon Turner, a second-team all-conference selection, returns on the lines.

Finding a quarterback will be key as Alex Isenberg graduated. Brendan Lynch, a 5-10, 170-pound sophomore, might be the new QB.

Other returning starters are defensive back Shawn Liberto, defensive end Chrtis Hughes, defensive tackle Alex Carson, center Knight Clark, two-way tackle Cody McClelland and tigth end Sean Carson.

SHADY SIDE ACADEMY INDIANS

A number of coaches in the conference are picking Shady Side to be near the top of the conference. That is probably based more on past success because the Indians won the conference title two years ago and tied for the title last year.

The prediction of a conference title can’t be based on experience because only four starters return on offense and three on defense. Also, Geno Thorpe, who showed plenty or promise as a freshman receiver last year, has transferred to Shaler.

Defense might be the cornerstone of this team again as the Indians allowed only 10 points a game last season. But offensively, keep an eye on junior quarterback Reggie Mitchell. He’s only 5-9, 155 pounds, but he threw for 615 yards last season and rushed for 485. He will be counted on more this season because standout running back Brian Nickel graduated.

Senior running back-defensive back Anthony Loyacona will be counted on heavily this year also. This is his third year as a starter. Junior lineman Andy Geisler has been a starter since his freshman year.

Other returning starters are tight end-linebacker Jake Ellis, running back-linebacker Ryan Reynolds and lineman-linebacker Harrison Hirsh.

SUMMIT ACADEMY KNIGHTS

It’s hard to know what to expect from this team year to year because the reform school basically has a new team every year. But the Knights have been more competitive in recent years.

Coach Steve Sherer’s team was 2-7 last year for the second straight season, but three of the losses were by 10 points or less.

It was only three years ago that Summit was 5-4 overall, 5-3 in conference and missed the playoffs by a game.

WEST SHAMOKIN WOLVES

It can’t get much worse for West Shamokin, right? The Wolves were 0-9 last season, scored only 17 points and gave up 422. Both scoring marks were the worst in the WPIAL.

But coach Josh Gilliland said he believes his team can actually get a couple of wins this season. Six two-way starters return. They are led by running back-defensive back Jared Hollibaugh. Also back are lineman-linebacker Gillis Brison, tight end-linebacker Eric McClafferty, tight end-defensive back Kegan Grey and linemen Dan Croyle and Eric McClafferty.

MSA SPORTS PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH:

1) FREEPORT YELLOWJACKETS

2) SHADY SIDE ACADEMY INDIANS

3) FORD CITY SABERS

4) BURRELL BUCCANEERS

5) APOLLO-RIDGE VIKINGS

6) DEER LAKES LANCERS

7) SUMMIT ACADEMY KNIGHTS

8) WEST SHAMOKIN WOLVES

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