CTK 2011 – WPIAL A Big 7 Conference Preview

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011 | 10:29 AM


The story of the Big Seven Conference has always been the same over the past several years…just how good is Rochester going to be? The Rams have been the standard-bearer, but are still smarting after two title game losses in the last two seasons.

There could be a new kid on the block in the conference, Sto-Rox came back and challenged for the title in 2010, the Vikings are loaded with Division I recruits and could actually be the favorite to win the conference.

Mark 9-23-11 on the calendar right now, Rochester travels to Sto-Rox in a major Week 4 meeting. But some other teams in the Big Seven are saying “What about me” and will have a say in how the conference turns out on the Highway to Heinz.

One other thing about the Big Seven, count on a lot of Saturday games as three of the eight teams that will play all of their home games on Saturday are in the conference with Western Beaver and South Side in the daylight and Shenango playing at night as they have for the past forty years at Glenn “Pop” Johnston Stadium.

Here is a look at the Class A Big 7 Conference:

CORNELL RAIDERS:

If Class AA had the Year of the Deer with Deer Lakes making the post-season, Class A’s best feel-good story was the Raiders 2010 season. Cornell had gone 7-41 from 2005-2009 and did not win more than two games per season during that period.

The Raiders ended that last year, starting at 6-0 and set up a battle with perennial conference champion Rochester for the top spot. Cornell lost that game and finished at 7-2 to make the playoffs for the first time since 2001. The Raiders fell to Beth-Center 34-12 in the first round, but equaled their win total of a five year period.

A change comes at the helm for the Raiders as Ed Dawson takes over for Dan Knause. Dawson is a former Aliquippa assistant, one of two to become head coaches this season, the other right down the road from Cornell, as Mark Washington takes over at Moon.

One of the top returning players for the Raiders is speedy senior B.J. Lipke. Lipke is an interesting case because he attends classes at Lincoln Park, which does not have a football team. Lipke lives in the Cornell district and is permitted to play at his home school., then will play basketball for the Leopards.

Shawn Owens will start the season at quarterback, Owens took over last season in Week 1 and threw for 569 yards and 11 touchdowns, he is also the leading returning rusher for the Raiders. Derrick Jackson will also be in the backfield and tight end Cory Mackey is a target as well as a blocker up front.

Also a player to keep an eye on this season for the Raiders is two-way lineman Paul Branagan at 6-4 and 270 pounds. Lipke also starts at linebacker.

NESHANNOCK LANCERS:

Neshannock started the season on a high note with non-conference wins over West Shamokin and Serra Catholic, but lost senior running back Asa Davies for the season and were never the same again.

The Lancers had several opportunites to advance to the playoffs, but turnovers hurt Neshannock in losses to Sto-Rox and Western Beaver to end the season at 4-5 overall and 2-5 in conference play.

The Lancers enter 2011 with 43 players in camp and stronger after starting a new weight program in the off-season.
Neshannock will go with a two-quarterback system, junior Michael Sanflippo returns after taking the majority of snaps as a sophomore. Also returning is Ernie Burkes, he will see time as a running quarterback and also plays wide receiver.

Junior John Conglose is back at running back, another junior in Alex Welker will play a variety of roles for the Lancer offense. Matt Davies and Kienan Owens also got significant playing team in 2010. The offensive line features three returning starters in center Dylan Stevens and guards Michael Ross and Luke Tappe.

The defense was stingy for the Lancers last season, allowing just 16 points per game and was 11th in yards allowed in the WPIAL. Tappe is a player to watch at linebacker for the Lancers, he was all conference last season, however he will miss the first game due to an incident that carried over from the final game last season. Another player to watch is senior Brandon Torsello, who seems to have a nose for the football at linebacker. Welker will also be counted on defense for Neshannock.

Mark Bleggi will again do the punting for the Lancers, Bleggi is the grandson of former Neshannock coach Bob Bleggi. The Lancers have not made the playoffs since 2004, head coach Pat Cuba is hoping that this could be the year for Neshannock.

ROCHESTER RAMS:

Another great season for the Rams, but once again it came to a bitter end as the Rams ripped off twelve straight wins to head to an early morning date at Heinz Field on Championship Saturday. The Rams were again denied a WPIAL title, falling 12-0 to the Clairton Bears. It was the fourth consecutive season the Rams were eliminated by the Bears, falling in back to back title games in 2009-10 and in the semifinals in 2007-08. Rochester has not won a WPIAL title since 2004, defeating Clairton in that title game.

DeAndre Moon is a player to watch for the Rams and what a player he was in 2010. Moon was nominated for consideration for the Kennywood Park/MSA Sports Pre-Season team. Moon rushed for 931 yards and 17 touchdowns for the high powered Rams offense, but was hampered by a high ankle sprain in the playoffs and championship game.

Ben Richko takes over at quarterback. There are several talented backs behind Moon, including JaQuan Pennington and Levi Laird. Also look for Alijah Elmore at wide receiver.
Todd Weischedel is a force on the offensive line. He was nominated for the Kennywood Park/MSA Sports Pre-Season team. Sayvon Norman, Tyler Beatrice, Brandon Scott and Josh Bullocks all saw significant playing time last season up front and return in 2011.

The Rams could be hurting defensively, only three starters return in Weischedel and Moon along with linebacker Quintin Goettman. Watch out for tackle Lesay Buckenheimer, he will be counted on by long time head coach Gene Matsook.

SHENANGO WILDCATS:

The Wildcats missed out on the post-season in 2010, Shenango finished 4-5 overall and 3-4 in the conference.
Shenango is down six players from last year’s team from 43 to 37. The Wildcats also had only one scrimmage as last Friday’s meeting with Farrell was cancelled after numerous players and coaches came down with flu-like symptoms.

Sophomore Tynan Greer will be the starting quarterback. Greer took over the position late last season and helped to lead the Wildcats in a valiant comeback attempt at Sto-Rox. Greer threw for 421 yards and three touchdowns.

Senior Joe Seaburn rushed for 534 yards and averaged over eight yards per carry. Senior Doug Bennett is out for football for the first time, he could be a target for Greer this season. On the offensive line, Avery Pears will be counted on to open the holes and protect Greer. Shenango has several talented underclassmen that will have to step up if the Cats’ are to contend for a Big Seven playoff spot.

Pears anchors the defensive line and Seaburn returns at linebacker, the Cats’ will have to improve on defense if they hope to make the post-season under fourth year head coach Ryan Mayo.

SOUTH SIDE BEAVER RAMS:

The Rams were outscored in almost every game, going 1-9 overall and winless in the conference, but return 17 starters for second year head coach James Winner. South Side gave up 312 points last season and scored only 78, two numbers that must change in what looks to be an offensive minded conference this season.

Wide receiver Justin Gentile was the offense for the most part for the Rams, grabbing 48 passes for 765 yards. The quarterback will be Jon Magusiak.

Ethan Winkle shined at nose guard last season, he will anchor the defense.

STO-ROX VIKINGS:

The Vikings moved back into the Big 7 Conference and moved into the post-season. Sto-Rox battled injuries and off the field issues to go 5-2 in conference play, but were beaten 10-8 by North Catholic in the first round. Ron Butchele is back for his second season as head coach, Butchele is in his second term at the helm at the Rox.

Sto-Rox has a trio of talented players returning, all of which are Division I recruits. Senior LB Deaysean Rippy is among the top 20 players in Pennsylvania at 6-2 and 205 pounds. Rippy was set to commit to Florida over the summer, but had his scholarship offer pulled by the Gators.

Josh Beverly will be the tailback, he led the Vikings with 14 touchdowns during the regular season. Brendan Blair is also expected to get some carries.

A quarterback battle will exist, Jordan Latimer begun 2010 as the starter, but he went down early with a torn ACL. Lenny Williams got the call and ran the Viking offense for the remainder of the season. If Latimer is 100 percent, look for both of these talented athletes to be on the field for the Vikings.

Whoever the quarterback is, the main targets will be Marzett Geter and Dontez Ford. Geter has signed with Pitt, Ford is headed to Syracuse. Both were recruited as defensive backs but will help lead a high octane offense.
Rippy will start at tight end, center James Latimer also torn his ACL in the spring of 2010. Latimer is the twin brother of Jordan.

Sto-Rox was well represented in the balloting for the Kennywood Park/MSA Sports Pre-Season team as Beverly, Geter(both sides) and Rippy all placed into consideration for the team.

UNION SCOTTIES:

Union finished 2010 at 2-7 overall and 1-6 in conference play. The Scotties have won just ten games over the last five seasons.

The Scotties will have the smallest roster of any team in the conference with just 24 players in uniform at the start of camp, forcing head coach Stacy Robinson to cancel a trip to Slippery Rock University.

Sophomore Joe Salmen takes over at quarterback. Wayne Seamans will be one of the main targets at receiver for the Scotties.

John Clark was projected as a starter in the secondary, he was moved to defensive end due to the lack of numbers. Seamans will start at free safety.

The Scotties suffered a major blow, sophomore Curtis Caughey was lined up to be a starter at offensive tackle, but went down with a knee injury that may sideline him for the season.

WESTERN BEAVER GOLDEN BEAVERS:

The Golden Beavers qualified for the post-season with a three-way tie for second place in the conference at 5-2. Western Beaver was eliminated by Springdale in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs with a 35-14 loss.

Coach Matt Gray is in a great position with many of his top offensive weapons back in 2011, starting with all around back Eric Blinn. The senior rushed for 924 yards in the regular season, at both running back and as a wildcat quarterback.

The leading receiver also returns in Dustin Creel, who grabbed 40 passes last season. Joe Dawida returns at quarterback, he’ll likely split time with Blinn once again. Zach Walker and Chris Frye started last season on the ends, they also return as does Dan DeAngelo and Zach Perry in the backfield.

On the offensive line, three starters return in Cody Orlowski, Chris Gennaro and Ryan Bensing. Defensively, nine of eleven starters return. Dawida and Gennaro started at end, Orlowski and Bensing at tackle, both linebackers return in Cody Boyle and Dan DeAngelo.

The secondary is strong with Blinn, Creel and Frye all returning.

MSA SPORTS PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH:

1. ROCHESTER RAMS

2. STO-ROX VIKINGS

3. WESTERN BEAVER GOLDEN BEAVERS

4. CORNELL RAIDERS

5. NESHANNOCK LANCERS

6. SHENANGO WILDCATS

7. UNION SCOTTIES

8. SOUTH SIDE BEAVER RAMS
 

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