CTK 2011 – WPIAL A BLACK HILLS Conference Preview
Sunday, August 28, 2011 | 2:46 PM
In dedication to Clairton's school colors, maybe they should change the name of this Class A section to the Black AND Orange Hills Conference. The Bears have dominated the WPIAL and the state in recent years, but they have really done a number in the Black Hills since moving over from the Eastern Conference in 2008.
In three years of playing in the Black Hills Conference, Clairton has won three straight conference titles and is a perfect 21-0 in conference games to the tune of outscoring their Black Hills brethren to the tune of 1,105 to 58 in those 21 games, 11 of which were shutouts. That's a mind-numbing average final score in three years of conference games of Clairton 52.6 – Black Hills Conference Opponent 2.7.
Again in this conference, it appears the story line is who will finish in second place for a home playoff game and which two other teams will get a chance to hope they are in the bottom half of the bracket on the Highway to Heinz in November.
Here is a look at the WPIAL Class A Black Hills Conference.
In recent years, Avella was not able to set lofty goals like playing for a championship or even making the WPIAL playoffs due to low roster numbers. They've had to fight just to have a team and finish the season.
But first year coach Ryan Cecchini wants his 2011 Eagles to be competitive each time they take the field. With 33 players in camp this August, that in and of itself is a big step in the right direction for a program that was 1-8 last year and 4-42 over the last five seasons.
Playing a lot of freshman and sophomores last year has helped develop experience, especially on the lines. The Eagles up front are led by senior center Eric Maust (5'10, 210), junior guard/defensive end Kaleb Ware (6'0, 250), sophomore tackle Nate Connelly (6'0, 260), sophomore guard Shawn Carl (5'8, 180), junior defensive end Zack Simonelli (6'1, 185) and sophomore defensive tackle Jake Temple (6'1, 215).
The Eagles also have experience returning in the defensive backfield in junior cornerback Drew Keenan and sophomore cornerback Brandon Miller.
The skilled players on offense though are all newcomers led by junior quarterback Eric Richards and senior wide out Nate Davis. The ground attack for Avella will center on junior Johnny Campbell and sophomore Zack Thompson.
Bentworth was one of two Class A teams not to win a football game in 2010. Their 0-9 mark a year ago combined with losses in their final three games of 2009 put the Bearcats losing skid at 12 games since they beat Avella 28-18 on October 16th, 2009.
Over the last five years, Bentworth is a combined 10-37 for a .213 winning percentage, only ahead of Avella (.087) among Black Hills Conference teams.
Lou Rood begins his third season trying to turn the culture around for the Bearcats, who haven't made the playoffs since advancing to the Class A Quarterfinals in 2005. Their previous trip to the postseason before that was 13 years ago in 1998.
Senior Kyle Cline returns as one of the top defensive backs in the conference. He also played split end a year ago for the Bearcats.
2010 was sweet for the Spartans in that they qualified for the postseason and finished tied for second place in the conference. The bitter for Brentwood was they lost out on tiebreaker points and ended up on the road in Round One where they lost a seven point halftime lead as their season ended with a heartbreaking 28-21 loss at Avonworth.
The Spartans will have big shoes to fill at quarterback after three year starter Corey Bauer graduated. he was 79 of 149 passing last year for 969 yards and nine touchdowns.
Veteran head coach Kevin Kissell (15th season) will turn to former running back, junior Chris Shortley to run the offense. Brentwood does have a couple of returning running backs though in sophomore Justin Vickless, who rushed for over 500 yards and 12 touchdowns and senior fullback Ben Walter.
Other skilled starters on the receiving end are senior wide receivers Spencer Hubsch and Sean O'Brien and junior tight end Mike Kish.
Brentwood was also hit hard up front by graduation, but two leaders back in the trenches are 5-9, 195-pound senior Alhussain Yashin (center/linebacker) and 5-9, 200-pound junior John Schmitt (offensive and defensive tackle).
A familiar name in the WPIAL high school coaching ranks is back as Terry George becomes the third Carlynton head coach in three years.
The hope of success in moving down from Class AA to Class A has not panned out for the Cougars in the first three years. They are a combined 8-20 since 2008 with no playoff trips and back-to-back 2-7 seasons and no postseason appearances since 2001. The former coach at Cornell, West Allegheny and Ambridge hopes to turn things around.
Carlynton plans to run the spread offense with one George calling the plays and another executing them. Coach George's son, Trevor, a senior transfer from Hopewell, will run the show at quarterback.
Senior Tyrone Murray had been the Cougars quarterback since his sophomore season, will now start at wide receiver. Junior Nick Lang will lead the ground attack after rushing for 625 yards a year ago.
It was more of the same for Chartiers-Houston in 2010…which is good and bad for the Buccaneers. The team made it to the WPIAL playoffs for the 8th time in 9 years, but then lost in the First Round for the 8th time in 9 years.
Now in his 7th season at Chartiers-Houston, Terry Fetsko has a team with plenty of experience returning (seven starters on offense and eight on defense) that he hopes can make it to the postseason and have some success.
The experience begins in the offensive backfield where senior Danny Lis begins his third year as the starting quarterback. Lis led the team in passing with 835 yards AND led the Bucs in rushing as well a year ago with 813 yards on the ground. Joining him in the backfield is senior running back Mykel Dorsey, who rushed for nearly 600 yards and scored ten touchdowns.
The Bucs leading receiver last year, D.J. Denny has graduated, but sophomore Miles Williamson could become the big target. He had 121 yards receiving as a freshman with two touchdowns.
Chartiers-Houston will enjoy experience and depth up front on both sides of the ball led by Kennywood Preseason all-star, 6'2, 260-pound senior Nick Grandelis. He is joined by fellow seniors Bob Mele (5-11, 190) and Joe Congie (6-2, 290) and juniors Jimmy Saieva (5'8, 190) and James Orbich (5'11, 215). Garrett Vulcano (6'0, 175) was an all-conference linebacker last year as a sophomore.
At this point, you start to run out of superlatives when talking about Clairton. Now in his 10th season as the lead Bear, Tom Nola's team continues to dominate the Class A ranks in high school football. 1n 2010, the Bears captured a third straight (fourth in five years) WPIAL championship and a second consecutive PIAA state crown. Clairton begins the season with a winning streak that has now reached 31 in a row, which is 21 games shy of the WPIAL record 52-game win streak by Braddock in the mid-1950's. Another perfect 16-0 season would leave them only five shy of the incredible record.
While the Bears seem to be the favorites of many to repeat success here in 2010, they will have to do so with many new faces in their lineup. The fresh faces start at quarterback where senior Capri Thompson takes over for the graduated Desimon Green. Thompson did take some snaps last year when Green missed some time with minor injuries. Junior Titus Howard was a reserve receiver last year, but will start at tight end and defensive back this season.
When in doubt, Thompson can always just rear back and throw it high and deep and watch the districts fastest athlete go get it. 6'3, 175-pound senior Trenton Coles will be the top target on offense. The University of Pitt recruit also is a stud defensive back. Another planned target at wide receiver was going to be Tyler Boyd. However the 6-1, 160-pound junior has been switched to running back after junior Karvonn Coles (Trenton's younger brother) tore his ACL over the summer.
Other players to watch for the Bears are lineman Carvan Thompson and Erik Walker along with linebacker Devante Gardlock.
FORT CHERRY RANGERS:
When it comes to Fort Cherry football, it seems they like to keep it All in the Family. The first family of Rangers football is The Garry's. The late, great Jim Garry was the schools only football coach until he turned over the reins to his son Tim, who now begins his ninth season as head coach.
On the field, Coach Garry's son Tanner and nephew Corey will play big roles on the Rangers 2011 campaign. Both are seniors now and both are four year starters with Tanner at quarterback and safety while Corey starts at fullback and middle linebacker. Tanner passed for over 1,100 yards last year with 13 touchdowns.
The two Garry boys aren't the only seniors preparing to begin their fourth year as a starter. Both Ryan Babirad at wide receiver and defensive back and Greg Kumer at offensive guard and defensive end bring plenty of experience to the Fort Cherry lineup.
Other returning starters for the Rangers include Jeff Whalen, who started two years at outside linebacker, but will also get some carries on offense this year. Justin Tkach, a two year starter at middle linebacker will get some time at fullback. Senior Ben Bowman is a two way tackle while junior Tyreke Brown a two year starter at wide receiver and defensive back.
SERRA CATHOLIC EAGLES:
After four straight years of playoff trips under former coach Rich Bowen, including a WPIAL championship in 2007, it was rough sledding for the Eagles in the first year under Jamie Eckels. The longtime assistant coach under George Smith down the hill at McKeesport High School led the Eagles to a fifth place finish and a 3-7 overall record last year.
Coach Eckels flex-bone offense is back again with a new quarterback. Senior Trevor Jaworski moves from wide receiver to signal caller to run the complicated but effective read and react offense.
Lineman are just as important as the quarterback in the flex-bone and Serra returns three players up front in 6-0, 185-pound senior Gregg Kinkaid, 5-11, 215-pound senior Zack Potts and 5-9, 197-pound sophomore Mark Tortorice.
A pair of senior linebackers will help lead the Eagles 50 defense with the return of Tim Sowa (5-9, 175) and Quincy Zitelli (5-8, 165).
MSA SPORTS PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH:
1. CLAIRTON BEARS
2. FORT CHERRY RANGERS
3. CHARTIERS-HOUSTON BUCCANEERS
4. BRENTWOOD SPARTANS
5. CARLYNTON COUGARS
6. SERRA CATHOLIC EAGLES
7. AVELLA EAGLES
8. BENTWORTH BEARCATS
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