CTK 2011 – WPIAL AAAA GREAT SOUTHERN Conference Preview

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011 | 5:18 PM


In the first eleven years of this century, three different Great Southern Conference teams won WPIAL football championships (Mount Lebanon in 2000, Upper St. Clair in 2006 and Bethel Park in 2008), nearly matching the total from the other three conferences combined (Woodland Hills, Pittsburgh Central Catholic, McKeesport, North Allegheny).

That overall balance has been a key to the success of the Great Southern Conference and it appears 2011 will be no different as five of the six teams open camp feeling they have a legit shot at the conference title.

Here is a look at the Class AAAA Great Southern Conference for 2011.

BALDWIN HIGHLANDERS:

Could the third year of Jim Wehner's tenure at Baldwin be the breakout season Highlanders fans had hoped since their football coach made the jump up the classification ladder after successful stints at Avonworth and Yough?

Wehner feels a now established weight program has really helped the team overall, but he is concerned about the depth of his team, stating that his Highlanders need to stay healthy to be successful.

There is excitement over the Baldwin ground attack thanks in large part to the emergence of junior running back Dorian Brown, who Wehner feels can become something special after he scored 12 touchdowns last year as a sophomore. Senior Tarief Green will join Brown at running back. The two will also start on defense with Brown at free safety and Green at linebacker.

Senior Jeremy Joyce will once again start at split end and cornerback. He was an all-conference defensive back a year ago. Joyce will be joined at those two positions by newcomer Jared Tuite. The Highlanders return two starters on the offensive line and at LB in senior guard and linebacker Dom Barca and senior center and linebacker Joe Persichetti.

Baldwin finished 3-6 last year, their most wins in a season since 2007, however they missed the playoffs due to tiebreaker points after finishing in a three-way tie with Bethel Park and Peters Township for third place.

BETHEL PARK BLACK HAWKS:

Jeff Metheny's Hawks hope to continue to be a power in the district highest classification as they have made it to the Class AAAA Quarterfinals in each of the last four years, highlighted by winning WPIAL gold back in 2008.

Bethel Park finished under .500 a year ago in the regular season and needed tiebreaker points to even make the playoffs. But once into the postseason, the Hawks upset 5th-seed McKeesport 24-21 in the First Round before falling to eventual champion North Allegheny in the Quarterfinals 23-13.

Now in his 18th season, Metheny's Black Hawks will continue to fly high in the conference if they get a big season from senior quarterback Anthony Cinello, who in his first year as a starter threw for over 600 yards in a run oriented offense. Cinello has three big targets returning in senior tight end/linebacker Nick Chess, senior wide receiver/cornerback John Kobal and senior wide receiver/free safety Jordan Hayes.

The air attack will need to improve because the running game will be inexperienced upon the graduation of Bre Ford, who led Bethel Park with 1250 yards and 20 touchdowns a year ago. The Black Hawks do have some beef up front back in senior linemen Gallega Atte and Mike Dunlap along with senior linebacker/fullback Conner Wilson.

The kicking game will be strong with the return of Matt Spegal, an all-conference punter a year ago as a junior.

CANON-McMILLAN BIG MACS:

2010 was a tough year for Big Macs rookie head coach Tim Sohyda. He wasn't hired to replace legendary coach Guy Montecalvo until June 21st and spent most of the season learning what kind of kids he had while the players were trying to learn a new system. Predictably, Canon-McMillan struggled on the field while those adjustments were taking place, losing all five conference games and finishing 1-8 overall.

But now that the learning curve is over, both the coaches and the players are optimistic 2011 will be much smoother sailing.

One player Sohyda is really excited about in junior Alex Campbell, who missed part of his sophomore season due to appendicitis on opening day. The 6'3, 220-pound linebacker and tight end is expected to garner some Division I interest this year. Joining Campbell up front are junior guard/defensive end Angelo Broglia, senior center/defensive tackle Brian Cumpston and junior guard/defensive tackle Torre Carr.

Two other senior returning starters are 5'10, 160-pound running back/defensive back Kenyadda Brown and 5'11, 225-pound linebacker/flanker Zach Soyring.

Three newcomers that Sohyda is excited about in the offensive backfield are senior Jake Billy, sophomore Colin Chupinka and senior Cody Renzelli.

MOUNT LEBANON BLUE DEVILS:

Veteran coach Chris Haering begins his 16th season at Mount Lebanon knowing opposing teams that will face his Blue Devils this season have one big question on their minds…how do we slow down Luke Hagy?

Hagy enters his final year at Mount Lebanon ready to etch his name among the many greats that have played for the Blue Devils through the years. Hagy finished 5th in the WPIAL in rushing last year with 1,649 yards on 211 carries while scoring 23 touchdowns.

Hagy's heroics helped lead Mount Lebanon to a perfect 9-0 regular season and a Great Southern Conference championship. After beating Plum 35-14 in the opening round of the 2010 Class AAAA playoffs, the Blue Devils first loss of the year ended their great season…a 29-22 overtime thriller against Woodland Hills.

Hagy will once again by joined in the offensive backfield by quarterback Andy Goff. The senior was 41 of 61 passing last year for 560 yards and six touchdowns.

Also back for the Devils this season to anchor both the offensive and defensive lines is Arthur Goldberg.
The 6'4, 270-pound Goldberg has made a verbal commitment to the University of Wisconsin. Goldberg's other top choice was Pitt, but he also had scholarship offers from West Virginia, Syracuse, Indiana, Cincinnati and Temple.

PETERS TOWNSHIP INDIANS:

2010 was a breakout season for Peters Township football as the Indians qualified for the Class AAAA playoffs for the first time in school history. The postseason berth was the programs first since making the Class AAA playoffs in 2003. But will 2011 be a continued step forward or a step back with a new coaching staff?

Former North Catholic coach Rich Piccinini takes over for Nick Milchovich with one of the top running backs in the district returning for his senior season.

Andrew Erenberg leads the way for the Indians after rushing for 937 yards as a junior. The son of former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rich Erenberg also scored 18 touchdowns a year ago. Fellow senior Justin Miller returns to join Erenberg both at running back and in the defensive backfield as well.

While the question of who will take over for the graduated Austin Hancock under center (67-104-1,018), there are plenty of weapons at receiver returning in seniors Mike Ranalli, Kenton Latinovich and junior Eric Lewis.

6'1, 250-pound senior Clayton Evans anchors both the offensive and defensive lines, along with 5'11, 225-pound senior Grant Taylor.

UPPER ST. CLAIR PANTHERS:

Last year, Upper St. Clair won seven of their first eight games and had a chance to win another conference title against arch-rival Mount Lebanon with a Week 9 win. The Panthers lost to the Blue Devils, finished second in the section and went on to beat Penn Hills 37-21 in the First Round of the Quad A playoffs before losing 16-14 to North Hills in the district Quarterfinals…all with a young team.

USC's Jim Render returns for his 42nd season in search of not only a Great Southern Conference title, but hoping to win the schools 8th WPIAL football championship.

Dakota Conwell is back to run the show on offense with his arm and his legs. Last year, Conwell threw for over 900 yards and 4 scores while also rushing for over 1,085 yards and 15 touchdowns. Conwell has made a verbal commitment to Pitt, choosing the Panthers over offers from Maryland, Temple and Toledo. He will play linebacker at the next level.

Two other Division I recruits at USC are offensive lineman Ian Park and tight end/linebacker Jack Schwaba. Both Panthers will play their college ball in the Big Ten at Northwestern University.

MSA SPORTS PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH:

1. UPPER ST. CLAIR PANTHERS

2. MOUNT LEBANON BLUE DEVILS

3. BALDWIN HIGHLANDERS

4. BETHEL PARK BLACK HAWKS

5. PETERS TOWNSHIP INDIANS

6. CANON-McMILLAN BIG MACS
 

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