CTK 2011 – WPIAL A Tri-County South Conference Preview

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Thursday, September 1, 2011 | 4:15 AM


This is a two-horse race. Ask just about any coach in the Tri-County South about what team will win this year’s championship and most will say Monessen and Beth-Center are far ahead of the pack.

This would be nothing new. Since Beth-Center joined the conference in 2008, the Bulldogs and Monessen have finished 1-2 every year. The past two seasons, Monessen has been first and Beth-Center second.

In 2008, Beth-Center was first and Monessen second.

Here is a look at the Tri-County South Conference.

BETH-CENTER BULLDOGS:

This is an experienced group of Bulldogs as 12 starters return from last year’s 8-3 team. Only four players graduated, and six returning players made the coaches all-conference team last year. No wonder there is so much optimism in Beth-Center’s camp.

Beth-Center has one of the best run-pass quarterbacks in Class A in senior Sal Faieta. He threw for 817 yards last season, but also is adept at running. Also back is the team’s leading rusher. Jake Sofran ran for 734 yards last season. Deshan Brown led the team in catches last year and also plays defensive back. Cody Durant is another one to watch in the backfield.

Zach Miller was an all-conference lineman last year while Jeremy Price is a three-year starter at tight end-defensive end. Also back are senior linemen Roberto Roux and Zach Holmes.

CALIFORNIA TROJANS:

After having an 11-year streak of playoff appearances snapped in 2009, the Trojans rebounded last year, went 6-4 and made the playoffs as the No. 3 team from the Tri-County South. Look for a new streak of playoff appearances to continue this season.

California has five starters returning on both offense and defense, including one of the best quarterbacks in Class A. T.D. Conway was the third-leading passer in the WPIAL last season. In the regular season, he completed 108 of 218 for 1,785 yards and was second in touchdown passes with 24. Conway (6-4, 220) is back for his senior season and is now going by his full name of Tyler.

Look for the Trojans to throw the ball often this season, if some receivers can be developed. Dakota Conway, Tyler’s brother, was the team’s leading receiver, but graduated.

Dylan Hunger (6-1, 200) and Skyler Dickinson (6-2, 225) return in the backfield. Dickinson also is an excellent defensive end and Hunter a defensive back. Boyd Stinnett (6-0, 200) was an all-conference lineman a year ago. Other returning starters are linebacker Sean Cotton (5-10, 185) and guard-linebacker Brendan Wright (6-0, 185).

CARMICHAELS MIGHTY MIKES:

Although Carmichaels was blown out by Clairton, 42-0, in the first round of the playoffs last season, there is momentum to carry the Mikes over from 2010. After starting the season 0-3 in conference play, Carmichaels won their final five games.

The problem again this season is the schedule. After a season-opening game at Leechburg, Carmichaels plays the three toughest teams in the Tri-County South in back-to-back weeks – California, Monessen and Beth-Center.

Carmichaels figures to have a decent running game with the return of junior Josh Mundell, who ran for 352 yards on 59 carries last year as a sophomore. But finding a quarterback will be key as Jon krall graduated.

FRAZIER COMMODORES:

It has been nine years since Frazier made the playoffs and the Commodores are hoping to break that streak after missing the playoffs last year by a game.

This year’s team is "Rock" solid at quarterback. Rock Vargo returns after passing for 874 yards last season. Kyle Rodriguez also is back at receiver-defensive back. He made the coaches all-conference team in 2010 and he and Vargo could make for a nice pass-catch combination.

But the Commodores will sorely miss running back-receiver Josh Guiser, who had more than 1,000 all-purpose yards last season.

GEIBEL GATORS:

Geibel has six starters returning on offense and eight on defense. That makes for some optimism for the Gators, who finished 3-6 last year. But a lack of depth is a big worry as coach Ron Marciante didn’t expect more than 25 players out for the team.

The Gators showed some offensive spark a year ago, averaging 22 points in conference games. Santo Piccolomini, a 5-10, 160-pound receiver-defensive back, was a coaches all-conference pick a year ago. Returning on the lines are Jacob Elias and Nico Martinelli. Joe Lechnar is a 6-foot, 200-pound tight end-linebacker who shows plenty of promise.

Other returning starters are: receiver-defensive back Elias Nahhas, fullback-linebacker Jay Yourigh, halfback-defensive back Trey Holmes and 5-9 junior quarterback-defensive back Jake Ciaccia.

JEFFERSON-MORGAN ROCKETS:

The Rockets have missed the playoffs two of the past three seasons, but should be in the thick of the playoff race this season after finishing 2-6 in conference play last season.

While the number of wins wasn’t impressive last season, the number of players out for the team is good as more than 40 were in preseason camp. Two players made the coaches all-conference team a year ago – junior fullback-linebacker Jesse Jento and tight end-linebacker Joe Phillips. Brian Rush is an offensive lineman to watch.

Jeff-Morgan was trying a number of players at quarterback, including last year’s backup – Tyler Bowman. Developing a solid running back will also be a key.

MAPLETOWN MAPLES:

The Maples have won only two games in the past three seasons and were winless a year ago. But coach George Messich used a lot of non-seniors last year and that could pay off this season. It might not be a playoff season, but it could be a season for improvement.

Tight end-defensive end Tyler Kamenos and running back-linebacker Michael Rumble both made the coaches all-conference team a year ago. Rumble will be a factor in the running game, but so will 5-11, 220-pounder Kyle Gray, who transferred from Waynesburg. Gray ran for a little more than 300 yards last season at Waynesburg.

Senior Marcus Cumpston is the quarterback after not playing football last season.

MONESSEN GREYHOUNDS:

If experienced lineman are a key to success, then things are looking good for Monessen to go through the conference undefeated for the third year in a row. But if inexperienced skill-position players are needed, then the Greyhounds might not be quite as strong this season.

Monessen has a number of top linemen back from last season. They include Juwan Mull who goes 6-3 and tips the scales at 321 pounds. Desmond Davis (5-10, 208), Jonathan Kravets (5-10, 225) and Francisco Maldonado (5-7, 192) also are back on the offensive line.

The Greyhounds have a new quarterback in Chavis Rawlins, a 6-1, 171-pound junior. His younger brother, Justice (6-2, 200), an outstanding sophomore who was an all-conference linebacker last year.

The defense was staunch last year, allowing only eight points a game. Besides Justice Rawlins, linebacker jalen madison (5-9, 181) returns at linebacker while Tyler Young is back at defensive back.

WEST GREENE PIONEERS:

Coach John Coss enters the second season of his second stint with the Pioneers, and he hopes the team can improve on last year’s 1-8 record. Coss has some experienced players to try and get things rolling this season.

Running back-linebacker Curtis Jones and running back-linebacker Brent Sink both made all-conference last year. Donnie White is another running back to watch and Matt Johnston is back at receiver. On the lines, Damon Green shows promise.

West Greene needs to improve on both sides of the ball as the Pioneers were outscored, 334-89, last season.

MSA SPORTS PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

1. MONESSEN GREYHOUNDS

2. BETH-CENTER BULLDOGS

3. CALIFORNIA TROJANS

4. CARMICHAELS MIGHTY MIKES

5. JEFFERSON-MORGAN ROCKETS

6. FRAZIER COMMODORES

7. GEIBEL GATORS

8. WEST GREENE PIONEERS

9. MAPLETOWN MAPLES

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