CTK 2011 – WPIAL AA MIDWESTERN Conference Preview

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Saturday, August 27, 2011 | 10:15 AM


As much as the teams change in the MAC, some things remain the same…Aliquippa, Beaver Falls and Beaver are all favored in the conference going into 2011.

But will there be another feel-good story from the Midwestern this season? In 2009, Ellwood City ended a looong losing streak, then qualified for the playoffs in 2010.

A battle should ensue for the final playoff spot in the conference, can a Riverside or New Brighton break multiple seasons missing the playoffs or could it be one of the Lawrence County teams making the post-season once again.

Here is a look at the 2011 Midwestern Conference:

ALIQUIPPA QUIPS:

The Quips once again made the trip to Heinz Field, but for the second straight year, Aliquippa lost in the title game, this time with a 19-6 loss to South Fayette. Since the WPIAL has moved into Heinz Field, Aliquippa has appeared in five of the ten Class AA title games, winning two WPIAL and a PIAA title in over the ten year period.

Quarterback Mikal Hall returns for another season behind center. Hall was nominated for consideration for the Kennywood Park/MSA Sports pre-season team. Hall threw for 1,537 yards and 19 touchdowns last season for the Quips.
Sophomore Dravon Henry is also a player to watch this season in the backfield.

Offensive lineman Emmanuel Williams was also a nominee for the pre-season team, as was defensive lineman Khali Seaburn.

Davion Hall is outstanding in the secondary for the Quips, he also is a player to watch this season. Hall is part of a stingy defense for the Quips, who allowed just under nine points per game. Also, if the secondary was not enough to worry about, inside linebacker Celo Chavis stood out as a sophomore in 2010. Throw in sophomore Jaleel Fields and you have the makings of another great defense for the Quips.

Sophomore kicker Marquis Jenkins returns for Aliquippa..and that is not a typo…the words Aliquippa and kicker were listed in the same sentence.

BEAVER BOBCATS:

The Bobcats finished 6-2 in the MAC, with tough losses to Beaver Falls and in overtime to Aliquippa. Beaver ended the "Year of the Deer" with a 34-21 first round victory over Deer Lakes, but were blanked by the Quips in the quarterfinals to finish at 8-3 overall.

Tight end Trent Shanahan was named to the Kennywood Park/MSA Sports Pre-Season Team, he was also nominated for consideration at linebacker. Head coach Jeff Beltz said Shanahan has the experience and blocking down, he is also getting better and better at running routes. Shananhan will be counted on heavily on defense for Beaver.

Senior running back Curt Lanctot returns as does junior runner Darian Bradley. Lanctot was nominated on both side of the ball by the MAC coaches for post-season awards. Junior running back Anthony Keriotis also returns, after missing the 2010 season with a shoulder injury.

Senior QB Christian Herstine has battled health issues over his high school career, receiving honorable mention at quarterback in 2010 in the conference. Herstine was just cleared to play at the start of camp, Beltz said Herstine and junior Austin Ross will share time at quarterback. Senior WR Justin Sosnowski is also back for another season.

On the defensive line, now senior Roman Nardone will be a player to watch for the Bobcats. The secondary is strong with Lanctot, Sosnowski, Keriotis and Herstine all returning. Beltz also looks for good things from Anthony Teems on defense, he was a lineman last season, but Beltz said they will do some different things with him in 2011. Also being counted on is inside linebacker Jayme Tatko, who saw a lot of action last season.

BEAVER FALLS TIGERS:

The Tigers fell only to Aliquippa in conference play, finishing 7-1. The Tigers eliminated Steel Valley 19-18 in the first round and blanked Keystone Oaks 28-0 to advance to the semifinals, they were also eliminated by South Fayette 55-28 in the semis.

Running back Trey Hall returns for Beaver Falls, he was nominated for the Kennywood Park/MSA Sports pre-season team. Hall rushed for 1,111 yards in the regular season in 2010 and 17 touchdowns.

The speedy Marcus Cleckley is a dangerous weapon as well for the Tigers, along with fellow running backs Rob Bell and Damian Rawl.

QB Wes Nesmith started three games last season for the Tigers, coach Ryan Matsook said Nesmith has showed promise during the off-season and expects big things from Nesmith in 2011.

Senior Alex Clark was named to the MAC Top 22 as a wide receiver in 2010. Tight end Royce Watson also returns, hefll be another target for Nesmith to throw to, along with Tyler Boxen.

Louis Becze and Anthony Chiappetta will anchor the offensive line for the Tigers, both played well as juniors and caught the eye of several coaches in the conference, as did sophomore defensive lineman Brock Boxen. Brian Lake will also be expected to provide blocking up front for the Tigers and their speedy running game.

Senior kicker Evan Richards also returns for the Tigers.
Coach Matsook said it is nice to have all of his backfield back for 2011, the Tigers have been in big games before and know what needs to be done to be successful in the conference and beyond.

ELLWOOD CITY WOLVERINES:

In 2009, Ellwood City ended a 31 game losing streak by defeating New Brighton. In 2010, few thought the Wolverines could make the turnaround complete and make the playoffs. The Wolverines started 3-0, including a 35-0 win at Mount Pleasant.

Ellwood City continued the winning ways, defeating fellow Lawrence County rival Laurel in a fierce battle in the rain at Helling Stadium and then defeated Riverside in the Backyard Brawl in the final game of the regular season to qualify for the playoffs with a 6-3 record.

The post-season was not as kind to the Wolverines, as they fell to eventual WPIAL champion South Fayette 35-0.
Ellwood City lost 13 players from that team, but the Wolverines are up in numbers for 2011. 50 players are in camp, up from 40 last season, but of those 50, 20 are sophomores.

One big returner for Lincoln this season is senior Kyle Crawford. He was named to the Kennywood Park/MSA Sports Pre-Season Team as the punter but he does so much more than that for head coach Don Phillips. Crawford was also nominated at wide receiver and defensive back in that balloting.

Senior tight end Matt Morella is back as is running back Alexander Grymes, he ran for 212 yards and scored three touchdowns last season.

Linebacker Christian Sarver is a player to watch, he was outstanding last season as a sophomore.

Should the Wolverine offense falter, Scott Lewis could be weapon with his leg, he returns for his senior season.
On the injury front, the Wolverines have suffered one serious injury so far. Senior running back/defensive back Austin Berezniak broke a bone in his leg during the first week of camp, he will be lost till mid-season. Berzniak was out for the team for the first time.

FREEDOM BULLDOGS:

2010 was a year the Bulldogs would like to forget, going 0-10. In fact the past several seasons have been ones to forget, as Freedom has lost 13 consecutive games and has not won three or more games in a season since 2007.

Also the Bulldogs have not beaten a current MAC conference member other than Ellwood City or New Brighton since 2005.
Freedom allowed over 36 points per game on defense, a number that must change if the Bulldogs are to rack up some wins in 2011. Linebacker Brandon Heckman will be a big part of the defense, he received honorable mention as a sophomore.

Tight end Connor Yarzebinski received honorable mention in the MAC coaches post-season balloting.

Kyeem Moon should be an anchor on both the offensive and defensive lines.

LAUREL SPARTANS:

After going to the WPIAL Class A semifinals in 2009, the Spartans found life in the MAC more difficult, finishing 4-5 overall and 3-5 in conference play.

Laurel will have 42 players in uniform for the start of camp, and has a tough start to the season with road games against Aliquippa and Jeannette, followed by a Week 3 matchup at Spartan Stadium with Beaver Falls. But the Spartans have eight offensive and seven defensive starters returning in 2011.

Three year starter Dylan Jones will again be the tailback. Jones rushed for 1,286 yards on 167 carries, scoring 15 touchdowns in 2010, cracking the one-thousand yard mark for the second straight season. Jones finished eighth in the WPIAL in rushing in 2010. The Spartans also have fullback Tyler Fennick and quarterback Brandon Ritchie returning. Ritchie was pressed into duty at quarterback in the season opener when Stuart Bartoshek went down with a broken leg.

The receiving core should be strong, Connor Melichar returns at tight end, with Josh Dando and James Steele as the wideouts, Dando is the younger brother of Jake Dando, a 4 year starter for the Spartans from 2006-2009.

Ryan Hites moves from the offensive line to tight end, both guards return in Cody Clem and Dylan Ritchie. The anchor to the offensive line is Kaleb Kingston, with Cody McDanel and Dan Phillips moving into the other starting spots. Clem and McDanel both saw action last season, but move into the starting lineup for the first time.

Melichar and Dylan Ritchie will be the defensive ends, Clem and Kingston both were honorable mention last season on the defensive line. Hites, Fennick and Jones again will be linebackers, Brandon Ritchie and Dando are in the secondary with Ritchie at safety. The Spartans also look for big things from Joey Johnson, who will do the place-kicking duties.

If Laurel is to get back to the playoffs, the Spartans must find the end zone, scoring an average of 18 points per game.

MOHAWK WARRIORS:

The Warriors ended 2010 with a 2-7 record, having dropped five consecutive to end the season. Mohawk will have a new coach to try and right the ship in 2011. Jason Long left after six seasons, former West Mifflin head coach and Ellwood City native Joe Lamenza takes over.

Lamenza served as the defensive coordinator at Beaver for the past four seasons, so he is familiar with the league. Mohawk has 38 players on the roster for 2011, up from 34 last season. The Warriors have five offensive and six defensive starters returning.

The QB will be Tim Glass, he got valuable playing time in several packages last season. Junior WR Vince Menichino was named to the MAC conference team last season, receiving honorable mention as did senior running back John Fleck.
Glass and Menichino will anchor the secondary for the Warriors. Fleck is back at inside linebacker.

The Warriors look to return to the post-season, a place they have not been since 2005.

NEW BRIGHTON LIONS:

The Lions improved after a winless 2009, going 2-7. New Brighton won its opener with Yough, then lost seven straight before beating Freedom in the finale. The Lions have won only four games over the past three seasons and have not made the playoffs since 2003.

QB Mike Nevill received honorable mention in 2010 by the MAC coaches for his play, also nominated was WR Drew Devinney.

Kellen Mackey showed lots of promise in 2010 as a sophomore running back, he will need to step it up in 2011 if New Brighton is to get out of the bottom of the conference.

New Brighton will have to improve on defense, they allowed almost 38 points per game last season.

RIVERSIDE PANTHERS:

The Panthers welcome a new head coach in 2011 as former Quaker Valley head coach Tom Liberty takes over for Jesse Rosenberger. Riverside will look to find a way back to the Class AA playoffs, missing out last season with a loss to Ellwood City in the Backyard Brawl. The Panthers finished 4-4 in the MAC and 5-4 overall.

With Coach Liberty at the helm, it will be a new look for the Panther offense, up-tempo and with some no huddle thrown into the mix. QB Devin Kelosky returns
Evan Hart returns in the backfield, Tom Mansfield will join him, Mansfield received honorable mention in the MAC last season at quarterback.

Jon McCullogh got some attention last season on the offensive line, he returns for 2011.

Sophomore David DeMarco could be someone to watch out for on the Panthers defense, especially if you are an opposing quarterback. Also in the secondary, Ricco Venezie was honorable mention last season as was Hart at inside backer.

Riverside looks to get back to the post-season, something they have not done since moving back into the MAC from the Tri-County North. The Panthers have not taken the exit on the Highway to Heinz since advancing to the semifinals in 2007.

MSA SPORTS PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH:

1. ALIQUIPPA QUIPS

2. BEAVER FALLS TIGERS

3. BEAVER BOBCATS

4. LAUREL SPARTANS

5. ELLWOOD CITY WOLVERINES

6. RIVERSIDE PANTHERS

7. NEW BRIGHTON LIONS

8. FREEDOM BULLDOGS

9. MOHAWK WARRIORS
 

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