CTK 2013 – WPIAL Double-A Allegheny Conference Preview

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013 | 11:05 PM


The Allegheny Conference of Class AA has seen its share of balance recently. Over the past four seasons, four different teams have won at least a share of the conference title.

While many are picking Shady Side Academy as the team to beat this year, balance seems to permeate through the section again.

A number of teams seem capable of grabbing one of the WPIAL playoff spots. One thing the teams in the conference would like to do is improve their playoff fortunes. Shady Side Academy is the only Allegheny team to win a playoff game the past two seasons.

Here is a look at the Allegheny Conference:

BURRELL BUCCANEERS:

Burrell had an all-everything player last year in running back-linebacker Cole Bush, who was all-state and now plays at St. Francis, Pa. Bush ran for 1,794 yards last season and was a force on defense. There is no replacing everything he did for the Bucs.

However, there is enough talent still on this team that Burrell is still thinking big for this season. The Bucs tied Freeport for the conference title a year ago.

Burrell’s offense averaged 34 points a game last season. Without Bush and graduated QB James Liput, the offense probably won’t be as strong, but it could still be effective. Cody Wolfe takes over at QB. He played one game at the position last year for the injured Liput and Wolfe, a converted slotback, performed admirably.

Three other skill position players will be keys. Mitch Pollino carried 37 times for 284 yards last season and Ryan Sowol carried 26 times for 186 yards. Also back is receiver Nick Pattock, who led the team in receptions with 24 for 387.

DEER LAKES LANCERS:

After making the playoffs in 2010 for the first time in school history, the Lancers slid backward the past two years, going 2-8 and 3-6.

The school opened Todd Hazlett’s position and T.J. Wiley was hired. Wiley coached the past few years at Northgate and also spent a year as Penn-Trafford’s coach.

Deer Lakes will most likely rely heavily on quarterback Josh Plocki, who started last season. Ryan McGrath was one of the running backs a year ago and also returns.

The Lancers have a new offensive system under Wiley. They need something to spark an offense that averaged only 15 and 12 points a game the past two seasons.

EAST ALLEGHENY WILDCATS:

East Allegheny won only one game last season. Maybe a new coach will lead a Wildcat strike.

Dom Pecora is the Wildcats’ new coach. He is a Norwin graduate who was Southmoreland’s coach the past two seasons. He takes over a team that finished tied for last in the Allegheny with Summit Academy.

You can bet Pecora will center things around quarterback Kyle Whipple, who threw for 1,338 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.

The running game will feature Taizjon Brown, who saw some action last year as a sophomore. Praise Garner is a receiver to watch and Gino DePaoli is one of the top linemen.

FORD CITY SABERS:

Last season marked only the second time in 10 years that Ford City missed the WPIAL playoffs. The other time was 2009. So the Sabers are looking for a return to glory this season after finishing conference play with a 3-5 record a year ago.

Ford City always relies on its running game. Although three running backs graduated, coach John Bartolovic still has a good stable or runners.

Fullback Garrett Virostek and halfbacks August Mantini and Chantz Schrecengost could provide a potent punch on the ground.

Quarterback David Lattanzio graduated, so the Sabers must develop a QB as well as some linemen.

FREEPORT YELLOWJACKETS:

The Yellowjackets tied Burrell for the conference championship a year ago. But with a roster depleted by graduation, Freeport would simply be happy to finish in the top four and make the playoffs this year.

Freeport has only two returning starters. One of them is very good. Nathan Rimmel is a 6-2, 275-pound offensive tackle who made first-team all-conference a year ago.

Other than Rimmel, Freeport is green just about everyhwere. Only eight seniors are on the team. Mike Troup is one of the few returning running backs who saw some playing time a year ago. He carried the ball 24 times.

Developing a quarterback is imperative. Brendan Lynch, who graduated, played the position last year and rushed for more than 1,000 yards.

KITTANNING WILDCATS:

Frank Fabian begins his second season as the Wildcats’ coach. The team finished 4-5 last season and 4-4 in conference, one game behind Valley in the playoff race. A 20-17 loss to Valley in week eight cost the Wildcats.

Kittanning lost its quarterback, top rushers and top receivers all to graduation. The Wildcats certainly have to rebuild at the skill positions. But if the Wildcats grow up in a hurry, there is a chance they could be in the playoff hunt once again.

SHADY SIDE ACADEMY INDIANS:

The Indians have a lot going for them and are pegged by just about everyone as the team to beat in this conference.

Shady Side should have a very strong running game with the return of Jarred Brevard and Dennis Briggs. Brevard led the team in rushing last season with 687 yards on 113 carries. Briggs has already accepted a scholarship to Pitt. He rushed for 473 yards on 82 carries. Briggs also led the team in receptions with 15.

Shady Side must develop a new quarterback. Matt Grenato, who was the team’s QB last year and also second-leading receiver, has graduated. Lewis Berry returns at receiver.

This team is more than just Brevard and Biggs. Chris Bush was a first-team all-conference center a year ago and Charles Calabrese a first-team all-conference linebacker.

The Indians will look to rely on defense after giving up only 94 points in conference games last year. That was second in the conference behind Freeport’s 85.

SUMMIT ACADEMY KNIGHTS:

It’s hard to know who the top players will be at Summit Academy. The school for adjudicated youth usually has a new roster every year. Some of the players turn out to be good ones.

A year ago, defensive lineman Hamin Williams and and offensive lineman Kenyatta McCloud made first-team all-conference.

Summit Academy finished 2-7 last year and is looking for its playoff appearance in school history.

VALLEY VIKINGS:

Could the terrific turnaround story continue this season for the Vikings? They entered last season on a 22-game losing streak, but ended up with a 6-4 record and made the WPIAL playoffs.

Moving down from Class AAA to AA certainly helped the Vikings fortunes and in his first year as coach, Chad Walsh got the team to the postseason.

This season, Valley should have a strong running game with the return of senior running back Demetrious Houser, who rushed for 1,193 yards on 129 carries last season. Valley used a number of running backs last season, but Houser most definitely will be the focal point of defenses this season.

Ty Matthews is back at quarterback.

MSA SPORTS PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH IN THE ALLEGHENY CONFERENCE:

1.      Shady Side Academy Indians

2.      Valley Vikings

3.      Burrell Buccaneers

4.      Freeport Yellowjackets

5.      Ford City Sabers

6.      Kittanning Wildcats

7.      East Allegheny Wildcats

8.      Deer Lakes Lancers

9.      Summit Academy Knights

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