CTK 2012 – WPIAL A Tri-County South Conference Preview
Sunday, August 26, 2012 | 3:28 PM
Like most of the other conferences around the WPIAL, the Tri-County South underwent a few changes with the new district realignment for the next two football seasons. it is still a nine-team conference with seven teams returning, but the two changes are significant.
Gone are two playoff teams from a year ago, the Monessen Greyhounds and the California Trojans. in 2011, the two combined to go 12-4 in conference and finish in a tie for second place. Entering into the TCS world are the Avella Eagles and the Bentworth Bearcats, the bottom two teams in the Black Hills Conference a year ago who were a combined 1-17 overall in 2011.
Another trend that four schools in particular are looking to change from a year ago is county representation. Last year was the first time in many years that none of the four Greene County schools, Carmichaels, Jefferson-Morgan, Mapletown and West Greene qualified for the WPIAL football playoffs.
It will be far from the strongest overall conference, but it should be very competitive. Here is a look at the Class A Tri-County South Conference.
After tasting the joy of victory twice in 2009 and once in 2010, Avella fell back into the winless mode that has plagued them for most of this century. However with nine starters back on each side of the ball, there is reason for second year coach Ryan Cecchini to be optimistic the Eagles will fly into the win column, perhaps several times here in 2012.
One of the top receivers in the conference is back in junior wide receiver Zach Thompson, who was an all-conference selection a year ago. Thompson and junior wide out Waher Kopko hope that the learning curve for the new quarterback is a short one. Sophomore signal caller Santino Paris takes over under center for the Eagles.
The running game is in good hands with the return of both Jake Temple, a junior and sophomore Nick Kusich. Temple was an honorable mention all conference defensive tackle last season.
A strength for Avella should be up front with the return of all five lineman, including 6'0, 265-pound senior Kaleb Ware, 5'10, 265-pound senior Jerad Saffell, 6'6, 280-pound junior Andrew Haskakis, 5'8, 180-pound junior Shawn Carl and 5'11, 200-pound sophomore Derek Allen.
Success is hard to judge. For most teams, losing your first eight games then winning the season finale is a year to forget. but when you get outscored 369-0 over seven of those losses and the win snaps a 20-game losing streak over a three year period, then maybe it's something to grow on for the returning players at Bentworth.
First year coach Bob Niziol is not new to the program. The 28-year old served as an assistant under former coach Lou Rood the last three years.
Three key players back for the Bearcats are Tanner Severns, Ben Carlisle and John Hackinson. Quarterback Dante Sicchitano was not the starter a year ago, but he returns with some experience having picked up some time under center in 2011.
To newcomers to watch that could really help with the Bentworth ground attack are running back/defensive backs Darius Hays and Ethan Tush.
Of the 16 conference in the WPIAL, the biggest prohibitive favorite coming into the 2012 campaign may be Beth-Center. The Bulldogs have been a force in the conference for years, including 2011 when they were a perfect 8-0 in winning the TCS. They have only lost three conference games in four years. However with both Monessen and California moving to the Black Hills Conference, it would be a shock not to see the Dogs on top again once the regular season is over.
The biggest hole for head coach Ed Woods to fill this season may be at quarterback, where three year starter Sal Faieta has graduated. no problem as the Bulldogs keep it all in the family with younger brother Gino Faieta expected to take over as signal caller. All-conference tight end C.J. Novak will be a big target for Faieto through the air.
Beth-Center has always been able to run the ball with success and this fall should be no different with the return of senior all-conference running back Cody Durant. He will be joined in the backfield by fellow running back Matt Riggle.
there will be some new faces up front for the Bulldogs on both lines, but the return of 6'3, 266-pound senior Zach Miller, an all-conference lineman from a year ago, should help anchor the line on both sides of the ball.
CARMICHAELS MIGHTY MIKES:
A year after a rare sub-500 season and a miss of the WPIAL football playoffs, there is plenty of excitement at Carmichaels High School this fall as veteran head coach John Menhart welcomes a team back filled with experience and strong leadership. The Mikes have 7 starters on offense and 8 on defense returning from a year ago.
The Mikes run game should be mighty with the return of all-conference junior running back Brennan McMinn (758 yards last year) and senior Josh Mundell, an all-conference defensive back from a year ago despite missing time with a broken arm.
Back under center will be 6'3, 175-pound junior Brandon Lawless. Some of his targets in the pass game will be senior wide receivers Logan Decker and Vincent Stephan along with junior tight ends Nick Mattei and Tye Metcalf.
The Mikes have a strong linebacker corp back led by seniors Colton Henry, Luke Muskal and juniors Joel Pekar and Metcalf. Muskal, Pakar and Mattei will lead the lines up front along with senior Mike Mitchell.
For three straight years from 2008 through 2010, Frazier won four games and just missed the WPIAL postseason each year. They finally dented the door and made their way into the district playoff party last season with a 6-3 regular season which tied them for second place with Monessen and California. Their stay wasn't long though as they were thumped by Sto-Rox in Round One 69-25.
But with the sweet taste of playoff football now something returning players have experienced, they are looking to kick the door down this fall and challenge for more than just a playoff berth.
Frazier will first have to fill the shoes of graduated quarterback Rock Vargo, who threw for 1,765 yards and 22 touchdowns a year ago. Seven of those touchdown passes were thrown to then sophomore tight end Charlie Manack, who takes over at quarterback for the Commodores this fall. One big target is back for Manack in wide receiver Jaime Fell, who had nearly 600 yards in receptions last fall with ten touchdowns.
A pair of running backs will try to fill the void of last years leading rusher Tony Kudyba. Chaise Bertocci was Frazier's second leading rusher a year ago and the teams leading tackler from his linebacker spot. He will be joined by fellow running back/linebacker Zack Mastowski in leading the ground attack. Players to watch up front include Justin Kulwicki, Steven Prescott, Joe Hela and Dan Leonard.
After a successful three year run in which Geibel won three games each year, the Gators took a step back last fall with only one victory in nine games.
Now that the school does not have the district longest losing streak of all time (wiped away last season by West Shamokin), new head coach Sean Benjamin wants his program to move forward and build on last year with no more backward steps for a program dying to return to the glory days of the late 80's and early 90's.
The speed of two players will be counted on heavily here in 2012 on both sides of the ball. Running back/linebacker Martin Berish will be couinted on to lead the Gators ground attack while wide receiver /Defensive back Jake Ciaccia will try to be a big part of a passing attack that will be manned by new quarterback Brandon Kushnar.
Three other new players that will be leaned on heavily by the new coaching staff will be wide receiver/defensive back Patrick Teich, wide receiver/linebacker Brent Plisko and offensive and defensive lineman Mario Piccolomini.
While there are plenty of familiar faces back for Jefferson-Morgan, one of them is not the head coach. Gone is long-time coach Jan Haiden, who has taken a spot as an assistant coach on John Menhart's staff at Carmichaels. 31-year old Liam Ryan takes over in his first head coaching job.
The cupboard is hardly bare for Ryan with six starters back on offense and nine returning on defense. Senior quarterback Tyler Bowman returns. His top targets will be senior tight end Christian Sands and junior Logan Bowman.
The running attack should be in good hands with plenty of experience returning. 6'2, 180-pound senior Dustin Conti was the teams leading rusher a year ago and an all-conference selection. Seniors Jesse Jento and Nick Santoyo will also be part of the mix with Santoyo also able to play wideout.
Two seniors and two juniors lead the way up front with 5'11, 250-pound senior Zach Broadwater, 6'0, 235-pound senior Nathan Wolfe, 6'2, 240-pound junior Brandon Pelosi and 6'9, 355-pound junior Jake Earnest doing the job on both the offensive and defensive lines.
Last years Maples football team took a step in the right direction. Sure its a long way from 2005, the last time Mapletown qualified for the WPIAL football playoffs, but coming off a year in which no boys team at Mapletown won a game and the fact the football team had won two games total in the past three years, last years 2-7 season was big.
Veteran coach George Messich hopes last year was the first of many steps back for his program. However a new quarterback will be needed to help lead in that 'next step' of the program. With Marcus Cumpston graduated, senior Kevin Ridgley is expected to take over under center.
While the passing game may take some time to develop with a new signal caller, the run game will try to ease the burden, especially early on. Returning to lead the ground attack is junior Kolby Kincell, who lead the Maples a year ago with 500 yards rushing and five touchdowns.
WEST GREENE PIONEERS:
A 3-6 record back in 2007 sounds like "the good old days' for West Greene High School football fans. Since winning three of their first four game sin 2007, the Pioneers are a combined 1 win and 40 losses, with at lone victory coming on September 24th, 2010 when West Greene beat Mapletown 23-7.
The Pioneers head into the 2012 season having lost their last 14 games in a row, including all nine contests a year ago.
For West Greene to have success on the offense, they may have to turn to the air. Junior quarterback Dalton Wildman returns, as does his top target from a year ago, senior Matt Johnston. Wildman was 49 of 139 passing for 575 yards, nearly half of which went to Johnston, who registered 25 receptions for 270 yards.
Injuries a year ago helped the Pioneers gain experience on the lines, where they return several players including senior tackle Damon Green, junior tackle Trevin Bedilion, sophomore center Beau Jackson and sophomore guards Bray Jackson and Will VanNorman.
MSA Sports Predicted Order of Finish:
1. Beth-Center Bulldogs
2. Frazier Commodores
3. Carmichaels Mighty Mikes
4. Jefferson-Morgan Rockets
5. Avella Eagles
6. West Greene Pioneers
7. Mapletown Maples
8. Bentworth Bearcats
9. Geibel Gators
More Football• Woodland Hills halts sports workouts to re-evaluate covid-19 guidelines
• Shaler uses caution, sends football players home over covid-19 concerns
• Norwin lineman Giansante commits to Western Kentucky
• Westmoreland County boys athlete of the year: GCC’s Nate Ward showed will to win in 4 sports
• Sto-Rox hires football coach LaRoi Johnson as AD, opens coaching jobs