CTK 2011 – WPIAL AAAA BIG EAST Conference Preview

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Friday, August 19, 2011 | 4:23 PM


This is the second season that the Big East is a little bigger. This is the second season that Altoona is in the WPIAL and in the Big East Conference. Altoona can only hope this goes a little better than the first as the team finished 0-9 last year and was outscored 354-118.

It certainly wouldn’t be going out on a limb to say Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Woodland Hills and Penn Hills will be the top three teams in the conference. It has been that way the past three seasons and they have taken turns winning the conference. Central Catholic won it last year, Woodland Hills in 2009, and Penn Hills in 2008.

The last time those three teams didn’t finish 1-2-3 was 2007 when Gateway won the conference. Gateway is no longer in the Big East.

Central Catholic seems to be everyone’s choice to win the conference again this season. Here is a look at the Big East:

ALTOONA MOUNTAIN LIONS:

Altoona’s first season in the WPIAL was not a good one as the team finished 0-9 and gave up more points (354) than any team in Class AAAA. It will take a big turnaround for Altoona to get into the top four in the conference this season, but maybe the Lions are a little more accustomed to the competition. They were blown out in most games last season, although they did lose to Fox Chapel by only 16-10 and Penn Hills, 17-9. They weren’t within 20 points in any other games.

A handful of players made second-team or honorable mention all-conference last year. But the only returner among those players is junior tight end Alois Steinbugl.

FOX CHAPEL FOXES:

It’s a new era at Fox Chapel as Eric Ravotti takes over as coach for Bryan Deal, who resigned after last season. Ravotti is a former standout linebacker at Freeport who went on to play at Penn State and spent some time with the Steelers. It will be interesting to see what Ravotti can do with a team that had trouble scoring, and gave up a lot of points last season. The Foxes were outscored, 327-125.

This team features one of the most heavily recruited offensive linemen in the state. Adam Bisnowaty is a 6-6, 275-pound senior who has offers from Pitt, Florida and about a dozen other Division I colleges. Bisnowaty has been a starter since his sophomore season.

One of the big questions is who will play quarterback. Noel Wilson was the QB as a sophomore, played receiver and running back last year, but might play some at QB again this season. Alex Romango and Mickey Jacobs are also vying for the job.

Fox Chapel will be playing a different style of offense this season, often using a no-huddle set.

KISKI AREA CAVALIERS:

Kiski Area’s last playoff appearance was 2006, and the Cavaliers most likely will be fighting for that third or fourth playoff spot this season. There is reason for optimism, though, as six starters return on both offense and defense. But it didn’t help the Cavaliers that quarterback-linebacker Tim Johnson transferred to Greensburg Central Catholic.

Coach Troy Wilson, in his third season, seems to have pretty good lines this season. Senior OT-DE Cory Allen (6-2, 250) was a second-team all-conference selection a year ago. Also back on the lines are two-way tackle Jim Bertovich and C-DT Neal Collecchi.

Chris Zaccagnini is back at quarterback, but J.J. Consentino is a promising 6-2 sophomore.

Also back are3 fullback-linebacker Josh Wiskeman, tight end-defensive end Shane Kuhn and WR-DB Joe Brungo. Defense must improve for the Cavaliers as they gave up the second-most points (196) in conference games last season.

PENN HILLS INDIANS:

Ron Graham enters his fourth season as Penn Hills’ coach. The Indians finished 5-5 last season, and were a first-round playoff loser to Upper St. Clair. Penn Hills finished third in the conference last season, and second or third seems like a realistic goal again this year.

It seems like Penn Hills always has a few Division I college prospects and this year is no different. Corey Jones, a 5-9, 165-pound senior, is ranked by scouting services as one of the best receivers in the state. He caught 26 passes for 320 yards in the regular season. Pitt, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Kansas and a few others have offered scholarships.

Chaz Whittaker, who played quarterback some as a sophomore, is now a receiver who also has an offer from Pitt. Big lineman Treyvon hester (6-3, 275) has a few offers from Mid-American Conference schools.

Penn Hills’ defense must perform better than last season. The Indians struggled when they played good teams last year, allowing 65 points to St. Edward, Ohio, 28 to Mt. Lebanon, 35 to Central Catholic, 29 to Woodland Hills and 37 to Upper St. Clair.

PITTSBURGH CENTRAL CATHOLIC VIKINGS:

Stocked with a number of returning starters and five seniors with Division I college offers, it is easy to understand why so many are picking Central Catholic as the No. 1 team in Class AAAA, and possibly No. 1 in the state heading into the season.

Seven starters return on offense and six on defense from a team that went 11-1 and lost only in the WPIAL semifinals to eventual state champion North Allegheny. The five players who have Division I college offers are receiver-defensive back Anthony Nixon, quarterback Perry Hills, running back Damion Jones-Moore, lineman Logan Dietz (6-6, 275) and defensive back Juwan Haynes. In fact, Nixon and Hills have already made their college decisions and they will be teammates next year at the University of Maryland.

Central Catholic coach Terry Totten also believes there is a chance one or two more players might end up with Division I offers.

Nixon is a standout on both sides of the ball. Nixon caught 34 passes for 690 yards last season and intercepted three passes. Hills threw for well over 1,000 yards. Also, 5-9 sophomore Luigi Lista-Brinza showed plenty of promise last year as a freshman, filling in for Jones-Moore when he was hurt.

The defense was exceptionally strong last year and should be again this year with the return of linebacker Lou Taglianetti. Other returning starters are linemen Scott Haraczy and Jake Walther, defensive back Ed Latimer and linebacker Arnell Farmer.

PLUM MUSTANGS:

With some talent and experience at the skill positions, Plum is hoping for a third consecutive WPIAL playoff appearance.

Quarterback Chris Zdinak returns for his senior season after throwing for 1,350 yards and completing 58 percent of his passes last season. His top receiver also returns as C.J. Lutz caught 45 passes for 697 yards last season, and was a first-team all-conference selection. Those two could make one of the best pass-catch combos in all of Class AAAA.

In the backfield, Tarique Ellis showed some promise last season, averaging 6 yards a carry. Jake Diguilio returns at fullback.

DiGuilio also plays linebacker and will spearhead the defense. Ellis plays defensive back. Other returning starters are receiver Mike DiGuilio, linebacker Tim Trathowen, linebacker Colton Cooper, linebacker Nick Serkerka and lineman Taylor Fink.

WOODLAND HILLS WOLVERINES:

Many were picking Woodland Hills to be the top team in Class AAAA heading into last season. The Wolverines started a little slowly, but still made the WPIAL title game before losing to North Allegheny.

Expectations aren’t as high heading into this season, but you could still make a point to have the Wolverines in the top six or seven teams in Class AAAA. One of the team leaders is senior linebacker Mike Caprara. He has been a starter since his freshman year and might break the school record for tackles this season.

Woodland Hills never has many problems finding running backs and the Wolverines seem solid for that position this year again. Look for Jaimire Dutrieuille to have a big season. The Wolverines also have one of the top receivers in the WPIAL in 6-4 senior Shakim Alonzo, who has scholarship offers from Pitt, West Virginia, Wisconsin and a few other Division I schools.

And don’t forget that Woodland Hills has one of the best kickers in the WPIAL in senior Sam Scifo.

MSA SPORTS PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH:

1. PITTSBURGH CENTRAL CATHOLIC VIKINGS

2. WOODLAND HILLS WOLVERINES

3. PENN HILLS INDIANS

4. PLUM MUSTANGS

5. KISKI AREA CAVALIERS

6. FOX CHAPEL FOXES

7. ALTOONA MOUNTAIN LIONS

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